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ADAPPT, Reading Pnnylvania
Dec 20, 2017
Overdose deaths spark changes at ADAPPT halfway house in Reading
Following a series of Reading Eagle stories about eight overdose deaths among residents of the ADAPPT halfway house, the state Department of Corrections said it was making extensive physical changes and exploring options for the facility. Separately, the House Judiciary Committee scheduled a hearing on the issue for Jan. 25 in Berks County. The department on Tuesday said the ongoing changes include the pending installation of a full-body scanner, additional urine tests and K-9 searches, and potential changes to windows and doors. The goal is to reduce the number of overdoses and prevent contraband from entering the facility. State Rep. Barry Jozwiak, a member of the Judiciary Committee, said Tuesday that the hearing was triggered by the newspaper stories and would take place at Reading Regional Airport on Jan. 25 at 10 a.m. Meanwhile, the newspaper received information from corrections that showed the Florida for-profit company that runs ADAPPT was paid more than $7.6 million in public money during a 15-month period ending in October. Seven people died during that time. The money went to GEO Group, a New York Stock Exchange-listed company whose chairman, George Zoley, made $5.2 million last year. The company declined to say how much of the $7.6 million was profit. Monica Hook, a GEO vice president, asked about ADAPPT's profitability, said, “Facility-based financial information is competitive in nature so we have always considered it proprietary.” Donna Kleedorfer, whose son died inside ADAPPT last year, could not believe the size of the payments. “I would like to see where the money is going,” she said. “What are they doing with it? Because what my son said about the conditions in there, that's no $7.6 million operation.” A newspaper story published Nov. 12 told of the eight overdose deaths — the first occurring on May 30, 2016 — among residents of ADAPPT, described by residents, parents and employees as drug-infested and loose with security. The newspaper determined ADAPPT had the worst fatal overdose record among 55 state-supervised halfway houses. Those who died while living at ADAPPT were Barton Weikel Jr., Matthew Kleedorfer, Tracy Ulrich, James Leeroy Davis, Matthew Santamouris, Matthew Feldbaum and Denise Ziagos. The newspaper was unable to reach relatives of the eighth victim. He died May 6 after getting a pass to leave the facility and overdosing several blocks away. Jozwiak said the planned hearing would focus on the safety of individuals in corrections' halfway houses. Other hearings in other parts of the state might follow, said Jozwiak, a Bern Township Republican. “The Pennsylvania Department of Corrections, along with the Board of Probation and Parole, supervises 55 halfway houses around the state,” the official announcement of the hearing said. “Oversight of these facilities has been questioned due to recent reports of individuals overdosing in and around facilities.” GEO Group claims in press materials to be the world's leading provider of diversified correctional, detention, community reentry, and electronic monitoring services to government agencies. It reported $2.2 billion in revenue in 2016. GEO acquired ADAPPT in April when it purchased Community Education Centers. GEO assumed a pre-existing contract between Community Education Centers and the state that dated to July 1, 2013. It covered ADAPPT and other halfway houses. The contract shows GEO gets $65.87 per day per offender housed in the group home at ADAPPT. It receives $107.50 per day per offender housed in ADAPPT's specialized drug and alcohol unit. Total state payments for ADAPPT under the contract escalated from $3.7 million in fiscal 2014 to nearly $6 million in fiscal 2017. When the 2017 payments are added to those for the first three months of fiscal 2018 — framing the 15-month period when seven residents died of overdoses — the total is $7.6 million. “That is outrageous for the job they are doing,” Christine Ulrich, a former Wernersville resident who lives in Conway, S.C., said when she was told the payment level. Her daughter, Tracy Ulrich, was living at ADAPPT in June when she died of a heroin and fentanyl overdose. “It's a dump,” Christine Ulrich said. State Sen. Judy Schwank said she wanted a change in leadership at ADAPPT. She wrote a letter to Corrections Secretary John Wetzel that said her concerns have grown in the wake of the articles as she has spoken to ADAPPT administrators, residents and families. “My biggest concern is how its managed,” she said in an interview. The director of ADAPPT, Michael Critchosin, could not be reached for comment. Schwank, a Ruscombmanor Township Democrat, said she expected to meet with corrections officials in early January. GEO Group has become part of the conversation as Berks County commissioners ponder the future of the 84-year-old county prison, now run by the county. Commissioners this summer toured a prison in Delaware County run by GEO, and privatization has been suggested as one option for the Berks facility. State Rep. Mark Gillen, a former corrections officer who paid an unannounced visit to ADAPPT shortly after the first story was published, questioned GEO's priorities. Besides the $5 million-plus compensation package given to the chairman, Gillen said GEO has four vice presidents who receive more than $1 million each in compensation. “If we can find a way to run the country with one vice president, maybe they can figure out a way to do it at GEO Group,” he said. “Somehow they are managing to accrue profits that end up in the paychecks of very wealthy people.”

August 21, 2017
Reading halfway house a heroin horror story
As he approaches his 40th birthday, longtime heroin abuser and repeat criminal offender Ryan Spangler has gained the mental clarity he believes could launch him into a new and drug-free lifestyle.The problem, he says, is that people keep overdosing on drugs right where he lives. Spangler lives at ADAPPT, a halfway house on Walnut Street whose operation is funded by the Pennsylvania Department of Corrections.  A 32-year-old Scranton man died of a suspected drug overdose there early Aug. 12, according to Berks County Coroner Dennis J. Hess. If toxicology tests confirm it as a drug death, it would be the third fatal overdose at ADAPPT in eight weeks and the fifth in 15 months. Coroner's records also show a sixth ADAPPT resident died May 6 after he overdosed on fentanyl and morphine at a public library in Reading. "It angers me," said Spangler. "I don't understand how a facility that is meant to help people has had so many deaths." He and other current and former ADAPPT residents told the Reading Eagle drug use is a regular occurrence at the facility. They said their own attempts to stay drug-free are compromised by seeing others use drugs at ADAPPT. Another current ADAPPT resident who did not want to be identified said she recently shot up heroin in bathrooms there. The father of yet another resident said he complained repeatedly to ADAPPT managers and to the state about his daughter's exposure to drug use there. Tammy Lutecki, who finished a stint at ADAPPT last month, said there was a tumult at the facility June 26. The noise, Lutecki said, was focused on a heroin-abusing woman whose syringes had been found in a toilet in ADAPPT three days earlier. Lutecki said, "We woke up to some of the workers screaming, 'Oh my God, she's dead!'. ADAPPT is one of 47 halfway houses overseen by the Pennsylvania Department of Corrections. They allow people coming out of prisons to re-enter society by taking on jobs and educational courses while living in monitored facilities. Thirty-five of them, including ADAPPT, are run by contractors hired by the state. "Any death is one too many, so our fight against this opioid epidemic and our work to keep our facilities drug free will never end," corrections spokeswoman Susan McNaughton wrote in an email in response to written questions. The worsening drug crisis took 4,642 lives in Pennsylvania during 2016, an increase of 37 percent from the previous year. McNaughton said the department's halfway houses are not exempt from the opioid drug crisis. Corrections has placed naloxone, a medicine that reverses the effects of an opioid overdose, in all facilities. It also has a medication-assisted treatment program underway to help drug abusers, McNaughton said, and it works to stay up to date on the latest drugs that are being abused in an effort to educate its staff. "It is through this education that we all work together to help put a dent in this epidemic," she said. District Attorney John T. Adams said the deaths at ADAPPT - as well as an increasing number of drug overdoses at the Wernersville Community Corrections Center in South Heidelberg Township - are troubling. "It is indicative of a problem I am seeing in our population that is paroled from state prisons," he said. "These facilities should be maintaining some sort of security protocols to prevent drugs in the facility." Until recently, ADAPPT was owned by New Jersey-based Community Education Centers. Under its Department of Corrections contract - which involved many CEC facilities in Pennsylvania, not just ADAPPT - the company was paid more than $71 million for services provided in fiscal years 2013, 2014 and 2015, according to data provided by the corrections department. In April, Community Education Centers was acquired by GEO Group, a Boca Raton, Fla.-based public company whose shares are listed on the New York Stock Exchange. McNaughton said GEO assumed the contract the department had with Community Education Centers and payment rates remained the same. A spokeswoman at ADAPPT in Reading referred questions about the deaths there to GEO's headquarters. On Friday, the company provided a written statement that read: "We are aware of the opioid crisis and take these disturbing incidents very seriously, however our facilities are not immune to this reality. Inside community-based re-entry settings and throughout the community, addiction is a serious threat for many individuals in our care." Since it acquired the CEC facilities, the statement read, GEO has worked to evaluate and enhance security and staff training, and to make sure residents can access evidence-based rehabilitation programs to treat substance abuse problems. GEO logged more than $2.1 billion in revenue in 2016. A press release said its acquisition of CEC would increase revenue by about $250 million a year. Documents filed with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission showed that GEO's chairman and founder, George C. Zoley, received compensation of $5.2 million in 2016. McNaughton said the agency was working to respond to newspaper requests for data on fatal drug overdoses in other halfway houses overseen by the state. Dr. David Moylan, Schuylkill County coroner, said he knew of no fatal overdoses at the two halfway houses in that county, Conewago Pottsville and Gaudenzia New Destiny. Lehigh County Coroner Scott Grim said none had occurred at Keenan House, a halfway house there. Corresponding information was not immediately available from the coroner's office in Chester County, which also has a state-sanctioned halfway houses. Hess, the Berks coroner, said the ADAPPT overdoses were not surprising because the population has a lot of criminal offenders with drug problems. Even if the suspected drug death on Aug. 12 is confirmed by toxicology test results, Hess said the total of five in a 15-month stretch was not overly large. "I don't think anybody there is to blame," he said. Dr. Edward Latessa, director and professor at the School of Criminal Justice at the University of Cincinnati, said halfway house programs typically do not have high mortality rates. At the same time, he said, Pennsylvania, like Ohio, has been hard-hit by the opioid drug crisis. The situation at ADAPPT, he said, sounded terrible for individuals who were trying to stay drug-free. But he could not say whether the number of fatal overdoses at ADAPPT was excessive in comparison to other facilities. He said: "Halfway houses are not secure. People go out during the day." Spangler's criminal record includes guilty pleas to retail theft, theft by deception, charges associated with credit card fraud, and drug possession. "Everything I have stolen was to get high," he said. He turns 40 in about three weeks. He has been injecting heroin intermittently since he was 17. He has two children. In the last few months, he has started receiving shots of Vivitrol, a medicine that can negate the cravings for opioid drugs like heroin. He said his mind has cleared, his judgment has improved and he has lost the desire to get high. "This shot has completely changed the way I think," he said. "I have a clear head. I have goals. I have the motivation to achieve them." Spangler acknowledged he was speaking publicly about a situation that some would prefer remain private. "I don't want retribution and to be sent back to prison," he said. "But I want the truth out."

Adelanto ICE Processing Center
, Adelanto City, California
Adelanto City, California
GEO Group
 Mar 20, 2019

Immigrant detainees stage hunger strike at Adelanto facility About 100 people aren't eating, to raise awareness of mistreatment

Immigrant detainees at the Adelanto Detention Facility, a privately run center that has been criticized for providing inadequate care, are staging a hunger strike to bring attention to conditions there. Their demands: adequate medical care, an end to what they describe as abusive treatment, and access to edible, nutritious food. The hunger strike began in the facility’s west wing on Thursday, March 14, when some 150 men refused to go to the cafeteria, said Lizbeth Abeln, immigrant detention coordinator for the Inland Coalition for Immigrant Justice. That led to a brief lockdown, with detainees kept in their immediate areas and visits with attorneys and families cancelled. She said some some detainees still were not being allowed visitors as of March 19. It was unclear how many are still participating in the hunger strike, but the number is believed to be at least 100, Abeln said. “They’re trying to highlight the abuses…  The guards at GEO are not respecting their basic human rights,” Abeln said, referring to GEO Group, Inc., the company that owns and runs the facility. The immigrant detainees were particularly upset this week because a young detainee was beaten up by at least one guard and he did not receive immediate medical treatment, according to Abeln. A spokeswoman for GEO referred questions to ICE, the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency. Lori Haley, a spokeswoman for ICE, said she could not reply to the allegation that a teen detainee was injured by a guard without knowing the names of the people involved. The strike comes on the heels of reports that blasted the facility for its care – or lack of care – of people who are in detention while they await for their cases to be processed in immigration court. (Detention centers like Adelanto’s house people who crossed into the United States illegally, and others who arrived legally, many of them seeking asylum. The Adelanto center, which can house up to 2,000 detainees, has long faced criticism for how it treats its detainees. Last year, federal investigators found nooses fashioned from bedsheets in some 20 cells. There was at least one suicide, by hanging, in 2017, and five other deaths, some due to medical neglect, according to the Inland Coalition for Immigrant Justice. A report released earlier this month by Disability Rights California, a non-profit legal watchdog group, found that people running Adelanto under report the number of suicide attempts at the center, and that detainees are subject to “punitive, prison-like conditions that harm people with disabilities.” The report also found that Adelanto detainees get inadequate medical and mental health care, and that guards have used pepper spray on some mentally ill detainees. Last month, California Attorney General Xavier Becerra issued a separate report that also described detainees getting inadequate access to medical care, legal counsel and family visits at Adelanto and other centers in California that house immigrant detainees. Adelanto is the largest such privately run facility in the state. A former detainee, Carlos Hidalgo, 51, of North Hollywood, said he was being held at Adelanto when he led a hunger strike there in 2016. The goal at the time, he said, was to raise awareness about complaints echoed this week – better medical care, better treatment, decent food. Immigrant detainees in Adelanto were treated like criminals, even though they are not criminal detainees, and often didn’t receive prompt medical treatment, he said. The food, he added, was sometimes beyond gross: “They gave us ground turkey but we found it infected with maggots.” The outcome of that three-day hunger strike? Officials locked down the facility and he was transferred to the Theo Lacy Facility in Orange County, he said. Hidalgo doesn’t expect much will come out of the current hunger strike either, except raising awareness. “It ain’t going to get very far. But it’s a good way to call attention to the situation that everyone turns a blind eye to.”

Mar 6, 2019
A nonprofit slams the Adelanto Detention Facility as posing harm to people with mental health issues and other disabilities.
A Nigerian man held last year at Adelanto Detention Center in San Bernardino was pepper sprayed twice while in custody – once because he wouldn’t stand up, and a second time as he attempted to hang himself in his cell. “If I say I am going to hurt myself, why pepper spray me?” said the man identified only as Ugo. “Why not try to help me?” His story was part of a report on the treatment of mentally ill detainees at the Adelanto facility issued Tuesday by Disability Rights California, a non-profit that serves as a legal watchdog to protect the rights of people with disabilities. The 64-page report, “There is no safety here,” is one of a several recent investigations that have found problems at the Adelanto Detention Center and other California facilities that hold migrant detainees. Last month, California Attorney General Xavier Becerra issued a report that found immigrant detainees – people who typically are held for civil, not criminal actions – are treated like prisoners, kept in their cells up to 22 hours a day, and offered inadequate access to medical care and legal counsel. Other reports, from different groups, have cited the facilities for failing to provide adequate services. At least one report last year noted that at Adelanto, which can hold nearly 2,000 people at any one time, investigators found nooses made by detainees in as many as 20 cells. The year-long investigation from Disability Rights California includes these findings: GEO Group Inc., a private contractor that owns and operates the Adelanto facility, significantly underreports data on the number of suicide attempts at the facility, using a definition that is too narrow: “serious self-harm intended to cause death.”  Whereas the Center for Disease Control and Prevention defines it as “a non-fatal self-directed potentially injurious behavior” with an intent to die. Adelanto detainees are subjected to “punitive, prison-like conditions that harm people with disabilities”  that may be violating their constitutional rights. The San Bernardino County facility has an inadequate mental care and medical care system, which turns to harsh institutional responses, like solitary-type confinement, to people facing psychiatric crisis instead of endorsing therapeutic measures. A spokesperson for the Sacramento-based public relations firm Stutzman Public Affairs, which represents the GEO Group, said Tuesday that their client already has addressed concerns in the report. “While we always appreciate the opportunity to improve processes and procedures, we strongly dispute the claim that suicide attempts were underreported,” the spokesperson said in an e-mail. “Furthermore, many of the recommendations outlined in the report were already in place… In all of the facilities that we manage on behalf of the federal government, we are deeply committed to delivering high-quality, culturally responsive services in safe and humane environments.” Those who find themselves in immigration detention facilities like Adelanto, which can hold nearly 2,000 people, are somewhere in the immigration process, either awaiting deportation or a court hearing.  Some crossed into the United States illegally. Some came into the country legally, seeking asylum.  They are considered civil detainees, not criminal inmates. The report said few detainees, even from third-world countries, are prepared for the conditions they encounter in the facilities, many of which, like Adelanto, are privately run. “The punitive, prison-like conditions disproportionately harm people with mental illness and disabilities.” Since Donald Trump became president, the number of immigrants detained has increased. And a growing number of those detainees are asylum seekers, who say they are fleeing violence and persecution in their homelands: 27 percent of Adelanto’s population was seeking asylum, according to the report. Among recent detainees there is growing population of people with mental health needs and disabilities, a category of asylum seeker that under previous administrations was a lower priority for detention. The report said that includes detainees like Sofia, an asylum seeker from Russia who was detained at Adelanto with her husband in 2017.  Visits with her husband were rare, and her requests to speak with him, or send him a letter, typically were denied, she told Disability Rights California officials. Although Sofia told investigators she previously had no history of suicidal thoughts before detention, after four and a half months at Adelanto she tried to kill herself. “I was tired of being here, of being detained,” she said. “It was just too stressful.” Meanwhile, her husband, Aleksei, said he too became so distraught that he also attempted suicide. But after stints in a suicide watch cell, which he told investigators were like “torture,” he told the medical staff that “everything is fine” because he didn’t want to go back there. U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement reported one suicide attempt in 2016, three in 2017 and none in 2018, according to the report.  But the nonprofit, “without conducting anything close to a comprehensive review of all detainees,” found more. There was at least one suicide, by hanging, in 2017, and five other deaths, some due to medical neglect, according to the Inland Coalition for Immigrant Justice. The report also found that detainees at Adelanto who show signs of mental illness, or request such services, have only “brief” contacts with mental health experts, and that the treatments they do receive are not individualized. The report added that individual and group counseling is nearly non-existent, and there is little opportunity for detainees to engage in activities like reading. Mario Perez, who lives in San Bernardino County and has lived in the United States since he was 5, said he experienced some of the issues reflected in the report. Perez, 31, was at the Adelanto facility for six months last year, picked up at his home by immigration agents while he was under house arrest following a conviction for driving under the influence. At the time, Perez was taking medication for depression. But he went the first week at Adelanto without his medication, even though he asked for it repeatedly.  Visits with a psychologist and a psychiatrist ran about 5 to 10 minutes each time, once a month. “I was able to advocate for myself,” said Perez, who now works for the Inland Coalition for Immigrant Justice, assisting people who leave the Adelanto facility. “But if you are not bilingual, and can’t speak up for yourself, that’s a whole different issue.” While he didn’t see any nooses mentioned in other reports about Adelanto, Perez said he heard other detainees and inmates talk often about wanting to throw themselves down the stairs or jump off a second floor inside the building. “They would comment: ‘I can’t do do this anymore. I can’t be here for another day.’”

Feb 3, 2019
NPR sues Adelanto over public records access
ADELANTO — In a lawsuit filed Wednesday, National Public Radio alleged the city failed to obey the state’s public records law. The suit alleges the city unlawfully denied NPR reporter Tom Dreisbach access to public records he sought regarding living conditions at the Adelanto Detention Center. The lawsuit asks the court to order the city to release the records. In 2010, Geo Group, one of the two largest private prison corporations in the United States, purchased the prison located on Rancho Road from the city for $28 million. It expanded in 2012 and today reigns as the largest immigration detention center in California. Since 2011, the city has acted as a pass-through agency in an agreement that allows U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement to hold immigration detainees at the facility. ICE pays Adelanto for the service, then the city pays GEO Group. The city collects administrative fees for its part. According to the lawsuit, Dreisbach requested public records from ICE in August 2018. He sought information about “emergency grievances” made by detainees, along with the staff’s responses, plus information on the use of force, including audio and visual records. ICE denied his requests, telling Dreisbach to contact the detention center directly. In September 2018, Dreisbach asked for records from Adelanto, the operator of the detention center listed in the agreement. The request was made under the California Public Records Act. On Jan. 1, 2018 the Dignity Not Detention Act became law. It demands any facility detaining “a noncitizen pursuant to a contract with a city, county, city and county, or a local law enforcement agency is subject to the California Public Records Act.” The lawsuit argues this law guarantees Dreisbach access to the records he requested. The city denied Dreisbach’s request, saying it did not possess “public records responsive to the request” because it did not have “actual and constructive possession” of the records, according to the lawsuit. The law firm representing the city acknowledged NPR was entitled to records under the California Public Records Act, but from Geo Group, not the city. In the lawsuit, NPR contends Geo Group possesses the records, and under the agreement between the parties, the city has “unfettered access to the records of the detention facility.” The agreement also requires the city to accurately maintain those records, the lawsuit said. Dreisbach then requested the records directly from Geo Group, which denied his requests and directed him back to ICE. “The contracts between ICE, GEO, and the city all permit the city access to any and all documents related to detainee custody and care,” the lawsuit said. “The city therefore has, at a minimum, an interest in and constructive possession of the records sought by NPR.” Adelanto City Manager Jessie Flores told the Daily Press that “the City previously provided all documents in its possession in response to a Public Records Act request received from NPR. The City received the Writ yesterday and the City Attorney’s office is reviewing it and will be responding.” In a statement emailed to the Daily Press, Geo Group contended that it is “obligated to follow contractual requirements, which provide that information related to the operation of ICE Processing Centers is under the control of the agency. The public disclosure of this information is governed by those contractual requirements and applicable federal laws and regulations. Accordingly, GEO has referred to ICE requests for information that is under control of the agency.” Lori K. Haley, a U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement spokeswoman, said she is unable to comment on lawsuits.

Dec 24, 2018
An immigration detention center in California has effectively worked to keep immigrants from contacting lawyers through phone rules, a lawsuit alleged last week. Advocate groups have said calls for those detained in the Adelanto Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) Processing Center calls are prohibitively expensive. And if a detainee is able to scrounge together money for call, then they calls are recorded and it is required that someone answer the phone nearly immediately—voicemails are not an option. "Legal representation is fundamental to ensuring due process for immigrants facing removal, but when our detained clients can't effectively communicate with us, our abilities to be effective advocates are compromised," said Meeth Soni, co-legal director at the Immigrant Defenders Law Center, in a statement released by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of Southern California.  The lawsuit detailed allegations of how difficult it can be for a detained immigrant to reach a lawyer. The suit alleges that an asylum-seeker named Desmond Tenghe has not been allowed to access funds he brought with and previous earnings from a different detention center were not transferred to Adelanto. Making just $1 per day working at Adelanto and denied free calls, the suit alleges, Tenghe has to spend a week's earnings to make a call and has to hope he reaches a person immediately. It took him two months to get ahold of his sponsor in Maryland, the suit alleges. "Over the course of weeks, Plaintiff Tenghe tried to call at least seven different legal organizations, including Catholic Charities, El Rescate, and others. Due to Defendants’ “positive acceptance” requirement for telephone calls, the telephone calls have either disconnected after ringing once or twice or continued to ring without answer. Plaintiff Tenghe has also attempted to call Catholic Charities to obtain documents about current country conditions in his country of origin, but those telephone calls also have not connected because of Defendants’ “positive acceptance” requirement." The GEO Group, a large contractor for ICE that runs the Adelanto facility, told the Miami New Times they are simply following procedures. "As a services provider to ICE, GEO plays no role in establishing immigration law and we comply with the performance-based standards set by the government," a spokesperson told the outlet. "We would refer specific questions about these policies [be addressed] to ICE." The lawsuit from the ACLU of Southern California and the Immigrants’ Rights Clinic at Stanford Law School further alleges that phone call recording policies at detention centers hinders conversations about legal strategies and that there are just 10 private meeting spaces at Adelanto for nearly 2,000 detainees. "The U.S. government has placed arbitrary barriers between immigrant detainees and their lawyers which must be eliminated if justice is to be served," said Ben Johnson, executive director of the American Immigration Lawyers Association, in the ACLU press release.

Oct 10, 2018
GEO Group, the operator of an immigration detention center in California, says it moved to address problems identified in a surprise government inspection well before they were detailed in a report released in early October. The Department of Homeland Security’s Office of Inspector General found several deficiencies in its May inspection of the Adelanto ICE Processing Center, including inadequate medical care and improper use of restricted housing. In a letter to ICE officials, Adelanto’s warden said the facility took action as soon as the problems were noted and had corrected the issues by early September. A privately owned immigration detention center in California says it had fixed problems identified in a surprise government inspection by early September, nearly a month before the results of the inspection were released to the public. Inspectors with the Department of Homeland Security’s Office of Inspector General (DHS-OIG) conducted an unannounced inspection of the Adelanto ICE Processing Center in May. The OIG’s findings, which included allegations of inadequate medical care and inappropriate use of solitary confinement, were published Oct. 2 in a memo that sparked outrage among immigration activists and civil rights groups. (RELATED: Watchdog Finds Hanging ‘Nooses,’ Lack Of Medical Care At ICE Detention Facility). But GEO Group, the owner and operator of the Adelanto center, disputed some of the problems noted by OIG auditors and said it took corrective action on others as soon as they were identified. “We take the findings outlined by the Department of Homeland Security’s Office of Inspector General (OIG) regarding the Adelanto ICE Processing Center very seriously,” company spokesman Pablo Paez said in a statement. “While we believe that a number of the findings lacked appropriate context or were based on incomplete information, we have already taken steps to remedy areas where our processes fell short of our commitment to high-quality care.” GEO Group, one of the country’s largest operators of private prisons and immigration detention centers, bought the Adelanto facility in 2010 and began housing ICE detainees there the following year. Today, Adelanto houses about 1,700 detainees, making it the largest immigration detention facility in California. DHS-OIG’s surprise inspection of the facility turned up three issues the watchdog said were “significant threats” to detainee health and safety. Inspectors discovered braided bed sheets — referred to as “nooses” by staff — hanging in several inmates’ cells, even though detainees had previously used similar sheets in suicide attempts. Additionally, inspectors determined that detainees were being prematurely placed in disciplinary segregation before they were found guilty of a rule violation and were not given “timely and adequate” medical care — both violations of ICE national detention standards. In some cases, detainees had to wait years for basic dental care, leading to tooth loss and “unnecessary extractions,” the OIG report stated. Adelanto managers took steps to correct the problems immediately after the inspection, according to a letter from warden James Janecka to ICE officials obtained by The Daily Caller News Foundation. In the letter dated Sept. 6, Janecka noted that detainees often used the braided bed sheets as privacy barriers between cell beds and toilets, but added that he had instructed staff to remove “any improvised curtains or any other visual obstructions.” With respect to the improper use of disciplinary segregation at Adelanto, Janecka conceded that detainees had been placed in the center’s restricted housing section while their cases were still in pending status. He said the mistakes were the result of delays in putting disciplinary records into detainees’ files, leading to confusion about whether inmates met the threshold for restricted housing. Under a corrective action plan implemented in May, “timelines will be met, and each detainee’s status in the disciplinary process will be readily discernible,” Janecka wrote. As for concerns about inadequate medical and dental care, GEO Group says it is conducting a review with its medical services subcontractor “to ensure all medical and dental care is provided at the highest quality and in a timely manner, and to hold accountable those who are not meeting these expectations.”As of Sept. 6, there was no longer a backlog for dental cleaning at Adelanto, Janecka said.

Oct 3, 2018
Nooses in cells, rotting teeth — report details harsh conditions at Adelanto immigration facility
A Nicaraguan man who was detained at the Adelanto ICE Processing Center died in March 2017 after he was found hanging in his cell from his bedsheets. Not long after, two other detainees also used sheets in an attempt to hang themselves. When federal officials arrived in May of this year for a surprise inspection of the privately run immigration detention facility, they found nooses made from bedsheets in 15 of 20 cells. “When we asked two contract guards who oversaw the housing units why they did not remove the bedsheets, they echoed it was not a high priority,” officials with the Department of Homeland Security inspector general’s office wrote in a scathing report made public Tuesday detailing dangerous conditions found at the facility during their unannounced visit. The nooses are just one of many problems posing “significant health and safety risks” identified by federal inspectors at Adelanto, which can house nearly 2,000 detainees as they await the outcome of their immigration cases Detainees reported waiting “weeks and months” to see a doctor, and inspectors met with a dentist who dismissed the necessity of fillings, and suggested that detainees use string from their socks to floss, the report said. Inspectors also said they found that detainees were commonly subjected to disciplinary segregation before being found guilty of violating rules. The report is the latest from government inspectors to document significant deficiencies at Adelanto since it opened in 2011. It comes one year after immigrant advocates raised alarms about conditions at the facility following the deaths of three detainees in a three-month period in 2017. The Times reported in August 2017 that there had been at least five attempted suicides at the facility in less than one year, according to a review of 911 calls. Lori Haley, a spokeswoman for Immigration and Customs Enforcement, said in a statement that immigration officials take the findings seriously and have “agreed to conduct a full and immediate review of the center to ensure compliance with detention standards and expedite necessary corrective actions.” Tens of thousands of ICE detainees have passed through the Adelanto facility since it opened seven years ago. It is owned and operated by the GEO Group, which runs dozens of private prisons and detention centers around the country. Among those held in the facility are asylum seekers, people caught in immigration sweeps and those identified by authorities as potentially deportable after landing in jail. Some detainees arrive at the facility soon after crossing the border; others after having lived in the U.S. for decades. They can stay in detention for months, and in some cases years, as their cases are decided. Pablo Paez, a spokesman for GEO Group, referred questions about the inspector general's report to ICE. According to the report, in the months after Osmar Epifanio Gonzalez-Gadba, 32, of Nicaragua was found hanging from bedsheets in his cell and later died, ICE compliance reports documented at least three suicide attempts by hanging at Adelanto, two of which specifically used bedsheets. Still, when inspectors visited the facility, they found braided sheets that both staff and detainees referred to as nooses hanging from the vents in 15 of the approximately 20 male detainee cells that they visited in four housing units. The guard who escorted the inspectors began removing the nooses but stopped after realizing how many there were, the report says. Some detainees said they use the unfurled sheets for privacy, while others said they used them as clotheslines. One detainee, however, told inspectors that he had seen “a few attempted suicides using the braided sheets by the vents.” “The guards laugh at them and call them ‘suicide failures’ once they are back from medical,” the detainee told officials. Inspectors also found during their visit that all 14 detainees who were in disciplinary segregation at the time were put there before being found guilty of a prohibited act or rule violation. And though ICE standards require face-to-face medical assessments of all detainees in segregation at least once a day, inspectors observed two doctors in the unit stamping their name on detainee records outside their cells “without having any contact with 10 of the 14 detainees in disciplinary segregation." The report also notes that some detainees reported waiting “weeks and months” to see a doctor and said that appointments were canceled without explanation, with detainees placed back on the waiting list. From November 2017 to April 2018, detainees filed 80 medical grievances with the facility for not receiving urgent care, not being seen for months for persistent health conditions and not receiving prescribed medication, according to the report. Inspectors also highlighted serious problems with dental care at the facility, saying detainees are placed on wait lists for months and, sometimes, years to receive basic care, “resulting in tooth loss and unnecessary extractions in some cases.” No detainees have received fillings in the last four years, according to the report. One detainee reported multiple teeth falling out while waiting more than two years for cavities to be filled. One dentist at the facility told inspectors he did not have time to complete cleanings or fillings, according to the report. “The dentist dismissed the necessity of fillings if patients commit to brushing and flossing,” the report states. “Floss is only available through detainee commissary accounts, but the dentist suggested detainees could use string from their socks to floss if they were dedicated to dental hygiene.” This is not the first time government inspectors have noted problems — often related to medical care — at the Adelanto facility. An annual review in November 2011 found that "medical officials were not conducting detainee health appraisals within 14 days of arrival,” and nurses were performing health assessments without proper training or certification. A 2012 report by ICE's Office of Detention Oversight found that many requests for medical care were delayed. That report also said the death of detainee Fernando Dominguez Valdivia in March of that year followed "egregious errors" by medical staff and that a review found it could have been prevented. A report on the 2015 death of Raul Ernesto Morales-Ramos, also prepared by the Office of Detention Oversight, said Adelanto failed to provide Morales-Ramos with timely and comprehensive medical care, among other lapses. More recently, the Office of Detention Oversight’s review of Gonzalez-Gadba’s 2017 suicide also faulted Adelanto for failing to meet national standards. That report said that in the days before his death, Gonzalez-Gadba reported he had been sexually assaulted at Adelanto, but medical staff did not conduct a medical assessment in response to that allegation. It also said that guards failed to check on Gonzalez-Gadba, who was being held in segregated housing, at least every 30 minutes, as required. He was found hanging in his cell 37 minutes after an officer’s last logged security round, according to the review. In its report, the inspector general’s office also noted the medical care deficiencies that were found at Adelanto following the deaths of detainees and urged immigration officials to fix the problems. "ICE must take these continuing violations seriously and address them immediately," the report says. Haley, the ICE spokeswoman, said a contracted inspection firm is scheduled to inspect Adelanto again this month. "Comprehensive medical care is provided from the moment detainees arrive and throughout the entirety of their stay," she said. Speaking about the nooses, she said "ICE recognizes that this can present a dangerous safety vulnerability and will intensify efforts to address this issue."

Jul 15, 2017
Adelanto Detention Facility barred from expanding for another decade
ADELANTO — The Adelanto Detention Facility will be barred from expansion for the next decade, thanks to a recent moratorium passed by state legislators. California’s budget for the 2017-18 fiscal year, which began July 1, included an action that targets the federal immigration crackdown by requiring that the state attorney general review each county, local or private detention facility where noncitizens are being held. The action also blocks counties and municipalities from signing new contracts or expanding existing contracts to detain immigrants, according to a report from the Associated Press. “The bill isn’t shutting down any centers, but it is preventing the Trump administration from expanding and entrenching immigration detention centers further,” Community Initiatives for Visiting Immigrants in Confinement (CIVIC) co-founder/co-executive director Christina Fialho said. The Adelanto Detention Facility, privately operated by the GEO group, contracts with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) to house federal immigration detainees. According to Fialho, the new bill bars city officials from modifying their contract with ICE and the GEO group to expand the detention facility for 10 years. The bill also earmarks $1 million a year for the Attorney General’s office to monitor immigration detention centers in the state, the first law in the country that gives a state agency the power to monitor federal immigration facilities, Fialho said. “Basically, it’s going to ensure that people in immigration detention are treated humanely,” Fialho said. CIVIC and other advocacy groups have regularly called upon ICE and GEO officials to make changes at the facility, citing detainee deaths and poor conditions, according to a previous Daily Press report. While ICE officials declined to directly comment on the bill and CIVIC’s statement, they explained that the agency uses a variety of facilities — including federal, state, local and contractor-owned facilities — across the country to house detainees in an effort to curb costs. The new bill would hinder these efforts while failing to curb immigration detention, they suggested. “Placing limitations on ICE’s detention options here in California won’t prevent the agency from detaining immigration violators,” ICE officials said in a statement. “It will simply mean ICE will have to transfer individuals encountered in California to detention facilities outside the state, at a greater distance from their family, friends, and legal representatives.” ICE officials said the agency seeks to house detainees within the geographical area of their arrest “whenever possible” to reduce the need for transfers to other facilities. This, in turn, leads to lower costs and shorter stays for detainees in ICE custody, they said.

Jul 6, 2017
Hunger Strike at California’s Biggest Immigration Detention Center
Activists say that more than 30 people began a hunger strike at the Adelanto Detention Facility on Tuesday, seeking better medical care and release pending their immigration court dates. In the last five years, six people have died while being detained — three of them since March 27 — at the San Bernardino County facility, the largest immigration detention center in California. It can hold about 1,900 detainees and was almost at capacity in March, according to data from Immigration and Customs Enforcement. Detainees say this is the fourth hunger strike they’ve conducted at the facility since June 12. During breakfast that morning nine men, mostly asylum-seekers from El Salvador, linked arms and refused to return to their cells until they could speak to guards about their concerns. Guards used pepper spray and physically removed the men to solitary cells, according to Tristan Call, a spokesman for the detainees, and ICE spokeswoman Virginia Kice. Then they began the hunger strike. “We are not anyone’s toys,” said Isaac Lopez Castillo, a 27-year-old from El Salvador, in a Facebook video about the strike. The men filed a complaint with the Department of Homeland Security’s Office for Civil Rights and Civil Liberties alleging that they were beaten and denied medical care and access to their attorneys. GEO Group, the private prison company that owns and operates the facility, is investigating the incident, and ICE officials will review that probe, according to Kice. “The claim the men involved in this disturbance were beaten is a gross and regrettable exaggeration,” wrote Kice in an email. On June 14, a group of nearly 30 women refused to eat for about 24 hours — asking for medical care, “basic respect” from jail guards, lower bond rates and to be reunited with their families. Call said that they ended the strike after many of the women received medical care on June 15. Then, on June 22, eight of the same men from the June 12 action began a new hunger strike, after one was deported. Call said that detainees throughout the facility have refused food periodically since they began striking on June 12. Kice says that the agency will implement hunger strike protocols, including medical supervision, if detainees refuse food for more than 72 hours. While the city of Adelanto holds the contract with ICE to detain immigrants in the facility, the city also has a contract with GEO Group to run it. Early last year, GEO Group stopped providing its own medical care and subcontracted with Correct Care Solutions, keeping on many of the same staff.
  ICE’s own investigators found problems at the facility, including health care delays, poor record keeping and failures to properly report sexual assaults. In a federal investigation into one of the California deaths, inspectors noted that the person who died had waited more than a year to see a specialist, that the high turnover of medical staff led to inadequate care and that a dearth of laboratory services led to delays in treatment. Independent medical experts for Human Rights Watch analyzing ICE’s investigation found that the man probably suffered from symptoms of cancer for two years. Detainees are also requesting to be released on their own recognizance, on bond or to receive a monitoring device. Immigrant detainees, including asylum-seekers, can wait weeks, months and even years for their day in immigration court. There are currently 326 immigration judges nationwide — and they’re handling nearly 600,000 pending cases, according to the Department of Justice and data from Syracuse University’s TRAC research center. Even if the immigration courts didn’t accept a single additional case, it would take longer than two years to go through the backlog, according to TRAC. Both ICE and immigration judges can release people. ICE officers make an initial determination about whether people should be detained while their immigration cases are pending. “ICE makes such determinations on an individual basis taking into account all facets of the person’s situation, including the individual’s immigration history and criminal record, if applicable. Likewise, the agency also considers an alien’s family ties, any humanitarian issues that may be involved, and whether the person is a potential flight risk,” wrote Kice. Detainees who have been convicted of criminal activity are mandatorily held in detention. Currently, the U.S. Supreme Court is set to rehear a case that could require immigration courts to conduct bond hearings every six months. The named plaintiff in the case, Alejandro Rodriguez, spent three years in ICE detention without a hearing for his release. Court records analyzed by TRAC showed that at least half — and in some years upward of two-thirds — of people are held in ICE detention while the DHS begins court proceedings to deport them. The median immigration bond was set at $8,000 in fiscal year 2016. About one in five people granted bond stayed in detention, presumably because they can’t afford it. In a statement during the first hunger strike, the men wrote that they cannot afford bail: “We are from El Salvador, Honduras, and Guatemala. We ask for your attention, because Adelanto is one of the prisons which exists for those who are seeking political asylum, and in reality our records are clean, none of us have prior criminal records. The bail is set impossibly high, and it’s a humiliating joke because we are poor, we don’t have that kind of money.”

Jun 13, 2017
Refugees In a Troubled Private Detention Center Are On Hunger Strike
Update (06/12/17, 10:15PM): On Monday morning, guards at the Adelanto Detention Facility allegedly attacked nine detainees, all members of a refugee caravan which arrived at the US-Mexico border in May. On Monday morning, according to two of the caravan organizers, Tristan Call and Alex Mensing, the group delivered a letter of grievances to prison officials and demanded a meeting with Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). At that point, say Call and Mensing, who spoke with the refugees after the incident, guards allegedly beat the men, “drenched” them in pepper spray, handcuffed them, and placed them in restrictive housing. It was then, ICE claims, that members of the caravan announced their hunger strike. “They described their shirts as literally being soaked with [pepper spray] and were forced to shower in hot water,” which intensifies the pain, says Mensing. “They also beat them and bashed them against a wall, knocking a dental crown out of one of the guy’s mouth.” Call adds, “They said the other prisoners shouted for the guards to stop but weren’t able to do anything.” In a statement e-mailed to Mother Jones this evening, ICE spokeswoman Virginia Kice said, “Monday morning nine detainees refused to return to their assigned beds for the morning count, locked arms, and defied commands to submit to mechanical restraints. After repeated efforts to avoid confrontation, a supervisory officer used a one-second burst of pepper spray to subdue the detainees, who immediately complied and submitted to mechanical restraints. No officers or detainees were injured.” The facility’s staff has now begun monitoring the strikers’ food intake. Today, members of a refugee caravan who are seeking asylum in the United States began a hunger strike at the Adelanto Detention Facility in Southern California. “We will not eat until the government responds to our demands and agrees to negotiate,” said Isaac Lopez Castillo, a 27-year-old from El Salvador who is one of the nine refugees participating in the hunger strike, in a statement. They are asking for better food, access to clean water 24 hours a day, and quality medical care. “None of us have prior criminal records,” they note. Though the hunger strike reportedly began today at 5:30 in the morning, after speaking with Adelanto Detention Facility staff, Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) spokeswoman Virginia Kice stated that “there are no detainees at that center who are on a hunger strike.” The members of the caravan, which arrived at the US-Mexico border in May, are from Guatemala, Honduras, and El Salvador. They fled their home countries after being targeted by violent criminal organizations, according to Tristan Call, an organizer with the Nashville-based immigrant rights group Sureñxs En Acción. “Most of them have had one or more family members murdered. A lot of them have had direct physical attacks that they survived themselves, and they’ve had extensive death threats,” says Call, who accompanied the caravan in Mexico and is speaking on behalf of the hunger strikers. Under US and international law, border agents must admit asylum seekers to evaluate whether they have “credible fear” of returning to their home country. According to Call, at least seven of the nine hunger strikers have undergone and passed their “credible fear” interviews, a major hurdle before they may pursue their asylum cases outside of detention. Yet the caravan members argue that they are being treated with “humiliation and discrimination” at Adelanto. In addition to demanding better food and clean water, they want new uniforms—specifically, underwear that hasn’t been used by other detainees. The hunger strikers are complaining about unreasonable bond amounts, which they say have been set at “impossibly high levels.” At least one detainee’s bail was set at $20,000, says Call. “If you set a $20,000 bond, and you’re a refugee from El Salvador coming with nothing, there is zero chance you will be able to do that. It’s essentially similar to the kind of extortion they were experiencing from the gangs they just fled from: You flee for your life from a place where you’re being extorted for tens of thousands of dollars that you can’t pay, and then you have a similar experience with the US government.” The detainees are also asking for better access to quality medical care at Adelanto, which is operated by the GEO Group, the country’s largest private prison company. So far three immigrants have died at the facility this year. In a July 2015 letter to ICE and federal inspectors, 29 members of Congress requested an investigation into health and safety concerns at the facility, writing that “egregious” medical errors had caused a 2012 death there. Four months after the letter was sent, 400 detainees began a hunger strike.

Jun 3, 2017
In 3 Months, 3 Immigrants Have Died at a Private Detention Center in California
A Honduran immigrant held at a troubled detention center in California's high desert died Wednesday night while in the custody of Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). Vincente Caceres-Maradiaga, 46, was receiving treatment for multiple medical conditions while waiting for an immigration court to decide whether to deport him, according an ICE statement. He collapsed as he was playing soccer at the detention facility and died while en route to a local hospital. Caceres-Maradiaga's death is the latest in a string of fatalities among detainees held at the Adelanto Detention Facility, which is operated by the GEO Group, the country's largest private prison company. Three people held at the facility have died in the last three months, including Osmar Epifanio Gonzalez-Gadba, a 32-year-old Nicaraguan found hanging in his cell on March 22, and Sergio Alonso Lopez, a Mexican man who died of internal bleeding on April 13 after spending more than two months in custody. Since it opened in 2011, Adelanto has faced accusations of insufficient medical care and poor conditions. In July 2015, 29 members of Congress sent a letter to ICE and federal inspectors requesting an investigation into health and safety concerns at the facility. They cited the 2012 death of Fernando Dominguez at the facility, saying it was the result of "egregious errors" by the center's medical staff, who did not give him proper medical examinations or allow him to receive timely off-site treatment. In November 2015, 400 detainees began a hunger strike, demanding better medical and dental care along with other reforms. The federal government guarantees GEO that a minimum of 975 immigrants will be held at the facility and pays $111 per detainee per day. Yet last year, the city of Adelanto, acting as a middleman between ICE and GEO, made a deal to extend the company's contract until 2021. The federal government guarantees GEO that a minimum of 975 immigrants will be held at the facility and pays $111 per detainee per day, according to California state Sen. Ricardo Lara (D-Bell Gardens), who has fought to curtail private immigration detention. After that point, ICE only has to pay $50 per detainee per day—an incentive to fill more beds. Of California's four privately run immigration detention centers, three use local governments as intermediaries between ICE and private prison companies. On Tuesday, the California senate voted 26-13 to ban such contracts, supporting a bill that could potentially close Adelanto when its contract runs out in 2021. The Dignity Not Detention Act, authored by Lara, would prevent local governments from signing or extending contracts with private prison companies to detain immigrants starting in 2019. The bill would also require all in-state facilities that hold ICE detainees, including both private detention centers and public jails, to meet national standards for detention conditions—empowering state prosecutors to hold detention center operators accountable for poor conditions inside their facilities. An identical bill passed last year but was vetoed by Gov. Jerry Brown. "I have been troubled by recent reports detailing unsatisfactory conditions and limited access to counsel in private immigration detention facilities," Brown wrote in his veto message last September. But he deferred to the Department of Homeland Security, which was then reviewing its use of for-profit immigration detention. In that review, the Homeland Security Advisory Council rejected the ongoing use of private prison companies to detain immigrants, citing the "inferiority of the private prison model." Yet since President Donald Trump took office, the federal government has moved to expand private immigration detention, signing a $110 million deal with GEO in April to build the first new immigration detention center under Trump. Nine people have died in ICE custody in fiscal year 2017, which began October 1. Meanwhile, private prison stocks have nearly doubled in value since Election Day.

Apr 13, 2016
California state measure calls for end to profit-making immigrant detention contracts
A new state bill aims to stop California cities and counties from contracting with private prison companies that detain immigrants, but the effort is generating pushback from one locality. The high-desert prison town of Adelanto, a city of roughly 32,000, is home to two jails and one immigrant detention center. U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement contracts with Adelanto for detention space for up to 1,455 immigrants at $112.50 per detainee, per day. The city, in turn, contracts with The GEO Group, a private company that runs both the Adelanto Detention Facility and one of the city’s jails. Adelanto officials sold the building that houses the detention center, a former state prison, to GEO in 2010. But the city holds the contract for its operation, and receives a cut of the amount ICE pays for the service. With the Adelanto facility's daily population averaging roughly 1,200 and based on the per-diem rate, ICE pays up to about $4 million a month — and more if the detention center is filled to its 1,940-detainee capacity. But a bill sponsored by state Sen. Ricardo Lara (D-Bell Gardens) could put an end to Adelanto's immigrant detention contract. "For far too long, our immigration system has promoted profits over people," Lara told KPCC. "The goal is to prohibit these for-profit companies from profiting off the backs of immigrants." Cities like Adelanto depend on detention space revenue. In Adelanto, which nearly went bankrupt last year, City Council member John “Bug” Woodard, a self-described Tea Party Republican, said the GEO contracts are vital to the city's economy. "I think a good 25 percent of our income comes from those jailhouses," Woodard said. "GEO is an important part of this community, and any idiot up in Sacramento that would like us not to do business with them, they’ve got their heads where the sun don’t shine." Adelanto has been fighting to stave off bankruptcy in recent years. Last year, Woodard championed a new revenue source — an ordinance that allows medical marijuana cultivation in the city. Proponents of Lara's detention bill say it would affect four local governments in California that work with private detention contractors, Adelanto included. The bill would only bar local governments from working with for-profit detention contractors; it would not prohibit them from contracting detention space directly to ICE, as does the Orange County Sheriff's Department, for example. Immigration authorities have increasingly relied on private contractors and local governments for space to house immigrants awaiting or fighting deportation since the early 2000s, when the detainee population exploded as a result of tighter immigration policies. While its scope seems limited, the bill would affect many more local-government contracts in other ways: a provision of the bill would make it mandatory for all immigrant detention facilities in California to comply with federal standards guidelines that are now optional. "Even if immigrants are in public holding facilities, like say with the sheriff or a local police station, these rules would have to be adhered to, regardless of whether they are private or public," Lara said. The bill would also make it easier for immigrants to sue these detention facilities if they believe their rights are violated. The threat of lawsuits worries the California State Sheriffs' Association, which opposes the proposal. So does the possibility of ICE having to move detainees from private-contract facilities affected by the bill to those that rent space directly to ICE, as many local jails do. "Some of that workload could potentially fall on public facilities that are already fairly overcrowded," said Cory Salzillo, legislative director with the sheriffs' ssociation. The measure requires approval by both houses of the California Legislature and the governor's signature before it could take effect. The Senate Judiciary Committee is set to hear the bill next week.

Feb 4, 2016
Debate over jail location in Adelanto revived
ADELANTO — A renewed debate over the location of a proposed 1,000-bed jail could hold up a lucrative deal that one official had trumpeted as officially erasing the city's deficit. The jail plan by private prison operator GEO Group Inc. returned to the Planning Commission on Tuesday night to mull GEO-requested tweaks to the development agreement. But Planning Commissioner Chris Waggener requested the item be revisited next month. The terms for the facility were initially approved 3-2 by the City Council in late October even amid concerns that the jail would be situated just about 1.5 miles from Adelanto High School. On Tuesday, Mayor Rich Kerr revived an argument he made three months ago in opposition to the plan. "I can assure you ... there will not be a prison next to the high school," Kerr said. He had mistakenly believed that the agreement OK'd in October pushed the jail to a location away from the northeast corner of Holly and Koala roads, which is also only a half-mile from residential housing. He and Councilman Charley Glasper shot down the plan at the time. The Commission had recommended the Council deny the plan because of its proximity to the school, and Commissioner Joy Jeannette on Tuesday stood firm in that stance. "I would never vote to have the prison near the high school," she said. Kerr added that he believed the "Council will not bend" from forcing GEO to build the jail elsewhere, but the assumption does not harmonize with last October's vote. Mayor Pro Tem Jermaine Wright, Councilman Ed Camargo and Councilman John "Bug" Woodard approved the plan back then, shifting the focus away from the location and instead toward the extra revenue and police presence provided by the agreement — even if the jail isn't immediately built. Proposed on 22.16 acres of land, the jail came with the condition that GEO immediately up its yearly payment to the city from $400,000 to $963,000 and fund one extra San Bernardino County Sheriff's deputy to patrol the streets, officials said. If the jail is built, the financial implications grow stronger. The annual payment will jump to $1.33 million and GEO will fund another deputy. The company was given two years to pull a permit and afforded five additional years worth of extensions to find a client. If the company were to back out, the city's revenue stream and GEO-paid deputies revert to pre-existing levels. In October, Camargo said the deal was "one way" to increase law enforcement in the city since "nothing (else) is knocking on the door." Saying that the deal officially erased the city's deficit, Wright noted that the jail remained at least 3.5 years from being operational and GEO was agreeable to move it. Yet Waggenger said Tuesday nothing had been formalized to suggest GEO would switch locations. The company operates three correctional or immigration complexes in the city: Desert View, Adelanto East and Adelanto West. Kerr told the Commission he would fight the jail's venue "tooth and nail." "I'm not going to put a bunch of cons out there to drool out the freaking window at our young kids," he said. "It's not going to happen."

Aug 26, 2015
Immigration detainees denied attorney access, groups say

ADELANTO — Federal immigration officials and Adelanto Detention Facility contractors over the last two years have blocked detainee access from attorneys and other visitors who have been critical of operations there or participated in protests, detainee advocate groups said Tuesday. The groups made their claims in a letter Monday to Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and Florida-based Geo Group Inc., which operates the Adelanto Detention Facility. The letter was signed by representatives of American Civil Liberties Union Foundation of Southern California on behalf of Community Initiatives for Visiting Immigrants in Confinement (CIVIC) and the Southern Poverty Law Center, with pro bono support of law firm Sidley Austin LLP. The letter urges ICE and Geo Group officials to "stop retaliating against visitors who publicly criticize the U.S. immigration detention system," or prepare to face legal action. "Over the last two years, the Geo Group and ICE have established an unlawful pattern and practice of denying attorney access to clients detained at the facility in retaliation for the attorneys' participation in lawful, peaceful protests outside of the facility," the letter reads, "in contravention of the First Amendment's guarantee that 'debate on public issues should be uninhibited, robust, and wide-open.'" ICE officials rebutted the claims Tuesday, saying the agency was well aware of the importance of ensuring detainees' access to legal counsel. "ICE is in frequent communication with attorneys and other stakeholders regarding the operation of its detention facilities and is continually making adjustments in response to feedback and any concerns raised," ICE spokeswoman Virginia Kice said in a statement. "Individuals who fail to comply with the visitation standards applicable to a particular ICE facility may have their visitation privileges suspended. Likewise, individuals who misrepresent the purpose of their visit to such facilities may be denied access." An email inquiry sent to Geo Group officials Tuesday was not immediately answered. On Aug. 6, 2013, attorney and CIVIC co-executive director Christina Fialho was reportedly denied access to consult with a prospective client after participating in a peaceful vigil outside the facility, according to Monday's letter. After a Geo officer asked her whether she took part in the vigil, she said she had and then was told her visitation request was denied. After challenging her denial, Fialho was told by the officer that she was being denied because she did not have on file a G-28, which is a notice of appearance as an attorney. But ICE regulations allow for attorney visits with or without a G-28, the letter said. San Bernardino County sheriff's deputies arrived soon after to question Fialho at the request of Geo officers. Fialho was informed that the Geo officers requested she be removed from the facility or arrested, according to the letter. ICE officials have said, however, that Fialho and members of CIVIC were involved in activities that violated ICE detention standards designed to safeguard detainees' privacy. Officials acknowledged that her visitation privileges were restored shortly afterward once the issue was resolved. But the letter also details a reported account from May, when Fialho was again denied access to consult with existing and prospective clients following a vigil, despite having confirmed with a deputy three times that the deputy had advised ICE and Geo officials of the purpose of her visit. "As Ms. Fialho prepared to leave the facility, she encountered other attorneys whom she knew but who had not participated in the vigil," the letter reads. "(A)ll of them had been permitted to visit with clients." She was then told by a Geo staff member that she could enter the facility should the other CIVIC members and accompanying families leave the scene. Even after they left, a Geo staff member shut the door and locked it in Fialho's face after she attempted multiple times to ask the staff member a question but was met with resistance and "instructed ... to either enter the building or leave," the letter said. The confrontation was reportedly caught on camera. The advocacy groups are demanding ICE and Geo officials confirm in writing by Sept. 24 that they will cease alleged retaliation and clarify policies to reflect this vow. Advocacy groups have regularly called upon ICE and Geo officials to make changes at the facility, citing detainee deaths and poor conditions. But officials have pushed back against suggestions of sub-par care, touting the amenities and liberties available to the 1,255 detainees there during a tour earlier this month.


GEO Group Whistleblower Exposes First Amendment Violations, Lack of Officer Training, and Poor Conditions at the Adelanto Detention Center  A former employee of GEO Group - a corporation that operates the Adelanto Detention Center - claims First Amendment violations, lack of proper training for GEO Group staff, extreme work hours, employee intimidation, and overuse of solitary confinement. The former employee, who asked to remain anonymous, recounted in a recording on file with CIVIC that two Muslim men were put into solitary confinement for quietly saying their daily prayers. He attributed these First Amendment violations to a complete lack of officer training. "They are not trained for shit," he said. "I had to learn everything on my own. They put me in a dorm and then they said, 'Alright. Good luck. See you later.'" He cited overcrowded conditions and a work culture that required guards to do back-to-back 12- and 16-hour shifts, or risk being fired. Despite the lack of training and the extreme over-time hours, he claims that he was responsible for supervising over 100 detainees on his own. According to him, he was warned, "If you can't handle it, you will lose your job." He stated that GEO Group is paid a certain amount of money from the federal government, but then GEO Group is given unbridled discretion to "do whatever the hell they want." In his view, this is not fair to the guards or the detainees. The Adelanto Detention Center, in San Bernardino, California, is owned and operated by GEO Group, which contracts with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) to imprison 1,300 men on any given day. ICE pays GEO Group up to $111 per person imprisoned at Adelanto each day. GEO Group is one of the largest private prison corporations in the United States. According to a compilation of federal figures by CIVIC, GEO Group receives more taxpayer dollars than any other ICE contractor. GEO Group's revenues climbed from $1.52 billion in 2013 to $1.69 billion in 2014. Last year, GEO Group began operating family immigration detention facilities that house juveniles. Yet, they acknowledge in their most recent annual report that they are unsure whether they can "minimize the risks and difficulties" involved in operating juvenile correctional facilities while still "yielding an attractive profit margin." GEO Group has been the subject of hundreds of lawsuits, ranging from sexual battery to medical neglect to wrongful death. In 2011, a U.S. citizen died at a GEO-run immigration detention facility in England. A jury found that his death was in part due to medical neglect at the Harmondsworth Removal Centre. A report on Harmondsworth by Her Majesty's Chief Inspector of Prisons in January 2014 found "shocking cases where a sense of humanity was lost." These cases included long periods of solitary confinement - particularly for Muslims - and medical mismanagement. The U.K.'s Home Office ended its contract with GEO Group that September. Back in the United States, another GEO Group whistleblower won a wrongful termination lawsuit, after he divulged illegal activities at a California facility, including sexual and physical assault, fraud, and mishandled incident reports. Numerous questions about oversight and accountability have been left unanswered by GEO Group. A government report found that GEO Group's medical mismanagement at Adelanto directly led to the death of at least one detainee, Fernando Dominguez, in March 2012. There also are significant questions regarding GEO Group's responsibility in last month's death of Raul Ernesto Morales-Ramos, also at Adelanto. Last week, the ACLU of Southern California, CIVIC, and eight other legal service providers and human rights organizations formally voiced concerns about the poor quality of health care offered at Adelanto. Our letter, sent directly to ICE Director Sarah Saldaña and other government officials, describes abhorrent accounts of medical negligence and reveals that financial costs form a basis for medical decisions. For example, GEO Group denied a man treatment for his severe hip infection because "it was too expensive." The infection ultimately developed into a life-threatening condition that required a 6-week hospitalization at an outside hospital not affiliated with GEO Group. Despite GEO Group's embattled reputation, ICE has announced plans to expand the available bed space at Adelanto by 640 beds, and for the first time may house women and LGBTQ individuals at the facility. According to their annual report, GEO Group expects to generate $21 million in additional annualized revenue from this expansion. Learn more here and join advocates, faith leaders, people formerly detained at Adelanto, and family members of people currently detained on Tuesday, May 19, 2015, (starting at 11 a.m.) for a vigil and press conference outside of the Adelanto Detention Center (10400 Rancho Rd, Adelanto, CA).

Feb 28, 2014

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

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
Aug 15, 2017
Nonprofit law firm sues Louisiana prison for info on who's held in segregated housing
The MacArthur Justice Center is suing a Louisiana prison for records that show who is being held in segregated housing, the nonprofit law firm announced Monday (Aug. 14). The suit was filed late last week after Allen Correctional Center, a privately-run prison that houses inmates from across the state, allegedly ignored repeated requests for public records, according to the Roderick and Solange MacArthur Justice Center. The nonprofit firm, which has an office in New Orleans, submitted a public-records request June 19 for the names and offender ID numbers of inmates kept in various types of segregated housing at Allen, according to the lawsuit. The prison received the request, directed to Warden Keith Cooley, by certified mail June 22, the lawsuit states. Louisiana law allows five days for information to be provided in response to such an inquiry. Nearly two months after the original request was submitted, the MacArthur Justice Center has not received the information -- or a timeline for when the documents will be made available, prompting the civil lawsuit against Allen Correctional Center Warden Keith Cooley, the MacArthur center said in a news release. The lawsuit notes that a follow-up inquiry into the request was sent July 12, both by fax and certified mail.  "All we want to know is who they are holding in solitary confinement and segregated housing," said Katie Schwartzmann, co-director of the center's New Orleans office. "The Warden is illegally obstructing our inquiry and we are now seeking a court assistance." The MacArthur center requested the information as part of a joint project looking at the use and conditions of segregated housing units in prisons across Louisiana, Schwartzmann said. The firm submitted similar requests for records to prisons throughout the state, but Allen Correctional Center was the only prison that did not comply, she said. The lawsuit, filed in Allen Parish, asks a court to order release of the records and seeks an expedited hearing on the matter. The lawsuit is also seeking penalties for violation of state public-records law, including sanctions and attorneys' fees for having to bring the litigation, which the lawsuit contends should have been resolved without court intervention or attorney time. "The public's ability to inspect public records is a critical to holding the government - and its private contractors - accountable for how they manage public resources," Schwartzmann said. Allen Correctional Center is run by The GEO Group, a private contractor for the Louisiana Department of Public Safety and Corrections. However, the Florida-based company, which owns or manages prisons across the country, announced last week that it plans to end its management of Allen at the end of August. Warden Keith Cooley was not immediately available for comment Monday evening. An attempt to reach The GEO Group for comment was unsuccessful. Though Schwartzmann declined to give details on why the MacArthur Justice Center is seeking the records, she said the center is "very concerned" about excessive use of segregated housing in Louisiana prisons. Segregated housing, or specialized areas of prisons used to house particular prisoners apart from the general population, is used for various reasons, including both disciplinary and protective. Recent years have seen a trend away from use of segregated housing, which includes solitary confinement but can include cellmates in some situations, Schwartzmann said.   Segregated housing often involves restricted access to services, privileges and everyday prison routines, such as outdoor exercise, phone use and social interactions. The practice has been shown to cause "very significant damage" to prisoners, she said. In July, the MacArthur Justice Center filed a federal lawsuit against another Louisiana prison, David Wade Correctional Center in Homer, arguing that the prison "deliberately impeded an investigation into allegations of serious neglect and abuse of prisoners with disabilities" by not allowing government-designated advocates to tour segregated housing for prisoners with disabilities.Lawsuit: Prisoners may have been forced to bark for food
. Prison officials prevented advocates from interviewing inmates and staff members, the lawsuit claims. The lawsuit was also brought by the nonprofit Advocacy Center of Louisiana, which serves as the state's protection and advocacy system to protect the rights of people with mental or physical disabilities.The MacArthur Justice Center is the same firm representing inmates whose lawsuit led to the Orleans Parish Sheriff's Office federal consent decree over conditions at the jail.

Jun 27, 2017
GEO Group terminates contract with Allen Correctional Center
GEO, the private managing company of Allen Correctional Center, is pulling their management contract with the facility beginning Aug. 20. The relationship the town of Kinder has with the correctional center runs deep, from employment to partnerships, and many say they're shocked by the sudden question regarding the facility's future. "We really didn't know what was going on, we heard rumors but nothing concrete," said Kinder Mayor Wayland LaFargue. He said he was notified of GEO's plan to end their management contract with the state-funded facility this past Thursday. In a statement from the company, GEO cited state budgetary constraints. The center has been operating as a jail facility for a year, which the company said they hoped was temporary. “We’re proud to have been able to partner with the Louisiana Department of Corrections to provide high quality management services at the state-owned Allen Correctional Center over the last two decades. Due to state budgetary constraints, over the last year, the Center has been operating as a jail facility, which we had hoped would be temporary. Unfortunately, continued state budgetary constraints will not support returning the Center to a full service correctional facility with robust rehabilitation programs, and therefore, we have regrettably reached the decision to discontinue our management contract at the Allen Correctional Center. We appreciate the partnership and support of the Louisiana Department of Corrections over the last two decades, and we are committed to ensuring a smooth transition as our management tenure ends at the Center at the end of August.”  This still raises major concerns for the parish and the town of Kinder. "GEO is probably the third largest employer for Allen Parish and it's going to affect our community dramatically with revenue and utilities," said LaFargue. "People don't realize the utilities they use. The employees...where are they going to go? I'm guessing 200 some have been there 20-plus years, that's devastating to a family." LaFargue said the correctional center also provides the town with grass cutting services and help with work on area schools. "They've been very good to us, but this short notice and hearing this, everybody's scrambling to find out what lies ahead in the future for us." The State Department of Corrections says its intentions are to maintain a facility at Allen Correctional Center, however, nothing is definitive at this time. "I hope something transpires in the next few months. I hope someone takes it over. That's the big problem. If we can solve that problem, it means a lot to Allen Parish and Kinder." The Department of Public Safety and Corrections says it will meet within a week to review available options.

Allen Correctional Center
Feb 20, 2016
Louisiana considering closing 2 prisons in budget cuts
The Louisiana Department of Corrections is considering closing two privately operated prisons as it tries to cut $14.1 million in spending to help close the state's $940 million budget shortfall. Winn Correctional Center and Allen Correctional Center, are operated by two separate companies. The two closures would save an estimated $4.6 million.  Another option the Department of Corrections is floating -- and the one the department most prefers -- is to temporarily reduce the rate the state pays the two companies that operate Winn and Allen prisons, for a savings of $2.6 million. But under that scenario, the Department of Corrections would also need to temporarily reduce the rate it pays per prisoner to house inmates in jails operated by sheriffs. There is significant risk in closing the two prisons because many of the 1,000 prisoners housed there are unable to be transferred to local facilities because of mental health or debilitating illnesses or because the prisoner is in a special disciplinary unit. "This is going to eventually saturate an already saturated staff, especially as it relates to medical and mental health," Department of Corrections Secretary Jimmy LeBlanc told House Appropriations members on Friday (Feb. 19). "It means we'll probably have to let people out of cells that probably should still be in cells and put them in the general population, which will drive up inmate assaults and inmate-on-staff assaults." The proposal for the two private operators of the prisons, LaSalle Southwest Corrections and the GEO Group, sets up a difficult ultimatum: Either accept the lower per-prisoner pay rate or face total shutdown. The department currently pays $31.52 per day; the local rate the department wants to pay is $24.39 per day. Legislators will need to approve new appropriations to pay the lowered rate. After the hearing, LeBlanc said that the department has been in communications about the possibility of lower pay rates, but hasn't received word back that LaSalle or GEO would accept the new payment structure.  "I've talked to LaSalle and got a response in writing, and I think it's been positive," LeBlanc said. "GEO we've not heard a definite yet." In addition to the budget cuts, LeBlanc said the department is having difficulty paying for the upkeep of prisons statewide. There are broken windows that need to be fixed and other maintenance issues, he said, that will have to be delayed under the current budget cuts. "This is a business where you're only one phone call away from disaster," LeBlanc said. "It's going to be a significant strain on our prisons to
take that kind of cut at the end of the year."

Feb 18, 2016
Former Allen Correctional Center inmate sues operators for alleged denial of medical care
LAFAYETTE – An inmate previously confined at Allen Correctional Center is taking the center's operator to court after allegedly suffering an injury when a ceiling tile fell on him. Ben Thompson filed a suit on Feb. 12 in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Louisiana, Lafayette Division against The Geo Group, for alleged breach of duties and violations of his rights. Thompson was formerly at the Allen Correctional Center, which is operated and owned by The Geo Group. He was allegedly incarcerated at the facility since April 2012 and until the time of the incident, and is now currently at the Elayn Hunt Correctional Center in Iberville Parish, the suit states. He alleges that many employees and inmates had complained about the conditions of the Allen facility but defendant allegedly ignored such complaints. On or about Feb. 12, 2015, Thompson was acting as a peer-facilitator in a substance abuse class when a ceiling tile fell 12 feet and struck him on the middle of his neck on the posterior side, the suit states. Thompson claims to have immediately felt a shocking sensation and instantaneous pain but was allegedly given only ibuprofen. Thompson alleges that the pain did not subside on Feb. 15, 2015, but was again allegedly given only ibuprofen when he sought treatment. On March 11, 2015, Thompson allegedly was given a CT scan and on March 20, a doctor at Allen recommended that plaintiff be observed by a neuro or orthopedic surgeon for appropriate diagnosis. The defendant allegedly denied such recommendations. The defendant also allegedly denied an administrative remedy procedure complaint made by the plaintiff on March 8, 2015. Thompson claims that as a result of defendant’s actions and unlawful disregard to his rights for medical treatment, he continues to suffer physical injury to his cervical spine and neck. He is now suing for access to reasonable medical care and treatment for his injuries, compensatory general and special damages, punitive damages, attorneys' fees, cost of the suit, and any other relief deemed just. He is represented by Gabe A. Duhon, James S. Broussard and Wyman E. Bankston from Abbeville. U.S. District Court for the Western District of Louisiana Case number 6:16-cv-00208

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.

Aurora ICE Processing Center
Feb 1, 2019
There's Been Another Chicken Pox Outbreak at Immigrant Detention Facility
There has been another chicken pox outbreak at the immigrant detention center in Aurora, the second in just three months. A detainee "pod," which is a prison housing unit consisting of individual cells, was quarantined for weeks after an outbreak in October. Now two pods have been quarantined for 21 days because of the virus, said GEO Group spokesman Pablo Paez in an email. Paez did not answer additional questions about why a second outbreak had occurred, or what the facility, which is managed by private-prison company GEO Group through a contract with Immigration and Customs Enforcement, was doing to prevent future outbreaks. But today, January 31, I met a detainee at the facility who described what it was like being under quarantine during last fall's outbreak. From behind a glass partition in the center's visitor room, Miguel Angel, 34, described how guards one day told his pod, which housed 77 detainees, that they couldn't leave their housing unit, offering no explanation. “We had no idea what was going on,” Angel recalls. "Guards just told us that we had to wait.” They wound up waiting for a few days, during which they couldn't access the recreation yard, see visitors, consult face-to-face with lawyers, or even attend their immigration hearings. About a week in, the detainees finally learned that they were under a medical quarantine because of a possible chicken pox outbreak, Angel says. The potentially sick individuals had been removed from the housing unit before it was locked down. And weeks into the quarantine, a doctor still had not visited the pod. Exasperated, Angel and about sixty other detainees wrote letters to ICE and the GEO Group demanding answers — and to see a doctor. Here's the letter: It has been two weeks now that we have been in quarantine and not one doctor has been sent to this pod to offer medical treatment for the chicken pox. The first three people that were infected have been treated, cured and were switched over to a different pod, and are now living their normal process. But we have no visits, deportations, and our court [hearings] are being delayed. They won't exchange our blankets, give haircuts, and we are prohibited from having rec time in the yard. We are being exposed to dangerous medical conditions living like this, causing depression, anxiety, high blood pressure, and conditions that could be fatal. The most difficult part is the court dates being rescheduled. Many of us have already had chicken pox or been vaccinated. Our immigration process is being delayed because this outbreak wasn't properly handled from the start, and it's not fair. It feels like medical resources don't want to be used on us because we don't deserve it. We are all in desperate need of help. Meanwhile, he saw firsthand how the lock-down put some detainees at greater medical risk since they didn't have regular access to a medical staff. One young man, who was complaining of a fever and had lost his appetite, asked guards to take him to a doctor. The guards stuck the man in his cell, believing that he had chicken pox, according to Angel. But then he collapsed, and guards had to rush in and do CPR to resuscitate him. "His heart had stopped briefly," Angel claims. After CPR, the man was transferred out of the pod, Angel remembers. Either that episode or the letters finally got GEO Group's attention. A doctor finally visited the pod, dressed in a full-body hazmat suit “looking like an astronaut,” says Angel. Some of the information that Angel provided about October's outbreak (at least the number of individuals who were quarantined) runs counter to what ICE had told media outlets, including Westword, at the time. “Of the 77 detainees who were tested, medical staff diagnosed three detainees with varicella; seven others had low immunity and therefore possessed increased risk factors of contracting the disease; all ten were quarantined at the facility,” spokesman Carl Rusnok said in a statement. “The Aurora medical staff continues to provide high-level care to all those affected, while at the same time continuing to serve the medical needs of the entire facility population.” Multiple requests for comment sent to ICE about the second outbreak haven't been returned; if and when they are, we'll update this story. Angel says he feels for fellow detainees who are locked up in the two affected pods. Asked why he believes this has happened a second time, he says, “it's because our lives don't matter to them. We could die in here and there's nothing we can do."

Arizona Department of Corrections
Mar 29, 2014

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

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

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)

Aurora INS Detention Facility
Aurora, Colorado
GEO Group (formerly known as Wackenhut Corrections)
Dec 21, 2017
ACLU Investigating Death of Iranian Immigrant at Aurora Detention Facility
Earlier this morning, the ACLU of Colorado announced that it filed a Freedom of Information Act request to obtain more information about how a 64-year-old Iranian man, Kamyar Samimi, died while being held at the Immigration and Customs Enforcement detention center in Aurora on December 2. ICE issued a statement two days after Samimi died, saying that the primary cause of death was cardiac arrest and that Samimi had been transferred to the University of Colorado Medical Center on the morning of December 2 before he was pronounced dead shortly after 12 p.m. The ACLU of Colorado wants to know exactly what happened. “Once again, a death in ICE custody raises serious questions about whether the agency is continuing to fail in its legal duty to provide necessary and adequate medical care to detainees in its custody,” says Mark Silverstein, legal director for the ACLU of Colorado. In 2012, a 46-year-old named Evalin-Ali Mandza died of cardiac arrest at the same detention center. An investigation of that death showed that staff at the GEO Group-run facility did not know how to properly use an EKG machine and stalled in calling an ambulance. The GEO Group manages private prisons across the U.S. and contracts with ICE to manage immigrant-detention facilities. The ACLU has looked into deaths at immigrant-detention facilities nationwide and co-authored a report in 2016 called "Fatal Neglect: How ICE Ignored Deaths in Detention." Nearly 200 immigrant detainees have died while in custody in ICE facilities since 2003. Samimi, who came to the United States as a student in 1976 and was arrested at his home on November 17 by ICE (the agency says he had a minor drug conviction from 2005), is the latest detainee to die in Colorado. “Mr. Samimi’s arrest, detention and death in custody display the inhumanity of our current federal immigration policies,” says ACLU of Colorado staff attorney Arash Jahanian. “He lived in the U.S. for forty years. ICE arrested him at his home with the intent to ship him off to a country he no longer knew. Then they locked him up in a detention facility, where he died two weeks later. ICE gave very little detail about what happened but made sure to mention his twelve-year-old drug-possession charge. The community deserves better, and that starts with ICE explaining what led to Mr. Samimi’s tragic death.” Silverstein characterizes ICE's detention facilities as "cloaked in secrecy." "[They] offer little to no transparency into the way detainees are treated within their walls,” the legal director says. "We are invoking the Freedom of Information Act to further the public’s right to know what goes on in these secretive taxpayer-funded institutions.” Meanwhile, a class action lawsuit is being tried in federal court over alleged forced labor practices at the Aurora facility. In September, the ACLU of Colorado found that clients of Iraqi descent being held at the facility were being harassed by guards and pressured to self-deport. A GEO Group spokesman told Westword at the time: "The Aurora, Colorado, facility has a longstanding record of providing highly rated services in a safe, secure and humane residential environment while treating all those entrusted to our care with the respect and dignity they deserve."

Sep 6, 2017
ACLU Says South Florida Private Prison Giant Is Torturing Immigration Detainees
Boca Raton's GEO Group is one of the most powerful private-prison companies in America — and a major player in state and federal politics. GEO throws campaign money at Florida lawmakers from both parties: Sens. Marco Rubio and Bill Nelson, Gov. Rick Scott, Reps. Carlos Curbelo and Mario Diaz-Balart, and the majority of the Florida Legislature have taken thousands from GEO despite constant complaints from progressives and human-rights activists who say the company profits from destroying the lives of others. Well, here's yet another reason Florida politicians should drop GEO Group like the plague: The American Civil Liberties Union said Friday that the company is torturing whistleblowers at its private immigration detention facility in Aurora, Colorado. GEO runs the facility on behalf of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement. According to the ACLU, ICE agents at GEO's 1,500-bed Colorado detention center are retaliating against Iraqi nationals who have joined an ACLU class-action lawsuit to stop the U.S. from deporting them. The ACLU says employees at the GEO facility are denying Iraqis food, water, and access to the restroom to intentionally make their lives a living hell. "GEO, the second largest immigration detention facility in the country, is a tightly regulated, colorless institution with bare cement walls, large metal doors that lock at every threshold, and scores of prisoners in scrubs," the ACLU writes. "Each of the detainees we interviewed provided accounts of mistreatment. These accounts were consistent, as was their palpable fear of death if ultimately deported to Iraq." The ACLU writes today that the Trump administration agreed to take Iraq off its list of countries covered under the so-called Muslim ban if Iraq agreed to accept ICE deportees. The ACLU has since sued, but the organization now says ICE agents at the GEO facility are trying to make detainees miserable so they choose to get deported. The ACLU writes: Since the court’s ruling, ICE appears to have ramped up its efforts to make the lives of Iraqis in custody so unbearable that they will “voluntarily” sign away their rights to reopen their immigration cases or pursue asylum. The Iraqis have been singled out and denied food, water, and access to the restroom. One man, who came to the United States as a refugee in 1976, reflected that if he goes back to Iraq, he will be tortured and killed. Still, he feels that his experiences at the hands of ICE are “a different way of torture.” He has told his wife that he is considering just signing the form and going back to Iraq. In Arizona and Colorado, and on the plane traveling between the two locations, ICE guards referred to the Iraqis as “camel jockey,” “rag head,” and “terrorist.” Guards at GEO referred to one of our clients as ‘Al Qaeda’ and told him, “You Iraqis are the worst people in here. We can’t stand you Iraqis.” When he tried to say that he has rights, he was told that he doesn’t have any rights because he was “an alien.” ICE guards in Arizona and Colorado have openly pressured Iraqi nationals to sign away their right to fight their immigration cases. Some guards told the detainees that their situations were hopeless and urged them to sign forms agreeing to voluntary deportation, without counsel present. Some Iraqis apparently succumbed to the pressure. The brave men we spoke to have decided to stay and fight. Miami New Times' sister newspaper Phoenix New Times has covered the plight of Iraqi nationals trapped in an Arizona detention center run by CoreCivic (formerly known as the Corrections Corporation of America), GEO Group's main competitor. In July, an Arizona judge blocked the deportation of 1,400 Iraqi Chaldean Catholics on the grounds they could be tortured for their religious beliefs and ties to the United States. In 2013, the Huffington Post reported that the CCA/CoreCivic's lobbying firms have donated more than $20,000 to South Florida Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz. In 2011, Wasserman Schultz threw her support behind a plan to build a private, CCA-run immigration facility in South Florida. That decision sparked protests and has cast a shadow over her recent bids for reelection. But of the two companies, it's Boca's GEO Group that remains the major political power in Florida. According to the National Institute on Money in State Politics (NIMSP), GEO has given $7.8 million to 885 candidates across the nation over the past 17 years. The group rains money in Florida: It is honestly difficult to find a state politician who has not taken at least a tiny amount of money from the company in that time period. According to NIMSP records, the group has sent checks to the majority of the state Legislature in Tallahassee, Rubio has taken $30,500 from GEO, Curbelo has received $11,000, and Nelson has accepted $5,000. Other recipients include U.S. Reps. Ted Deutch, Frederica Wilson, Mario Diaz-Balart, Charlie Crist, and Governor Scott. GEO is still donating today: The group gave former state Rep. Jose Feliz "Pepi" Diaz $3,000 in his current race for the state Senate seat vacated by N-word-dropping ex-lawmaker Frank Artiles. Last year, the Miami Herald reported that GEO absolutely vomited cash at state Senate President Joe Negron and his wife Rebecca, who ran for the GOP nomination for Senate last year before Rubio announced his plans to run for reelection. The Herald reported that GEO gave the couple a combined $288,000 in a single election cycle. "It is tragic that these individuals, who fear persecution in Iraq because of their religion and connection to America, are now being persecuted by agents of the United States government," the ACLU wrote last week.

Aug 18, 2017 nationallawjournal
Advocacy Groups Side With Plaintiffs Alleging Unpaid Labor At For-Profit Prison
Advocacy groups have weighed in on a lawsuit against the nation's second-largest for-profit prison provider, arguing in recently filed "friend-of-the-court briefs" that GEO Group Inc.'s alleged practices of relying on cheap and unpaid labor by detained immigrants underscores abuses to this vulnerable community. Attorneys who filed the lawsuit in 2014 are currently fighting to uphold class certification in the case before the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit. The U.S. District Court for the District of Colorado in Denver originally certified the class, which could include as many as 60,000 detainees who cycled in and out of the GEO Group-owned Aurora Processing Detention Center in since 2004. Over the last week, a slew of advocacy organizations, including The Southern Poverty Law Center, Public Citizen and a group of national immigrant rights groups, filed briefs that point to the broader implications of the case — noting issues around human trafficking and the for-profit prison industry. They also discussed the importance of class actions for vulnerable immigrant groups. This potential class action against GEO, a Republican campaign donor, comes at a time when the $3 billion for-profit prison industry is gaining support from the Trump administration. Earlier this year, U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions rescinded guidance from the Obama administration that would have reduced the construction of privately owned prisons. A separate complaint has also been filed at the Federal Election Commission by the Campaign Legal Center against GEO, claiming the company illegally contributed $225,000 to a pro-Trump PAC during the 2016 election. And according to reports, the U.S. Department of Justice under President Donald Trump has awarded the GEO Group more federal contracts for private prison facilities. "This is about the excesses of the private prison system and how it almost invariably led to forced labor and human trafficking," said David Lopez of Outten & Golden, who represents the plaintiffs in the Aurora case. "This case illustrates why it's dangerous and they have a built-in system to keep the costs down. Absent of such class actions, who will hold them accountable?" Outten & Golden attorneys this year joined Nashville-based immigration attorney Andrew Free, attorneys for Denver-based advocacy group Towards Justice and Colorado-based attorneys for Milstein Law Office and Meyers Law Office in bringing the suit. The lawsuit claims that GEO amassed enormous profits through "forced labor" provided to the Aurora prison through a contract with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement. The suit takes aim at the company's "sanitation policy" that required ICE detainees to work as janitors without pay under the threat of solitary confinement. It also targets a "voluntary work program" that allegedly paid detainees only $1 a day. Two classes were certified by the Denver federal court that could include between 40,000 to 60,000 laborers that were detained in Aurora over the last 10 years. The private prison system, and its profit margin, appears to depend upon this type of labor, Free said. He said the case in Colorado is a reflection that such policies and practices affect a wide array of people in the immigration system. "These policies run directly counter to protections that people have fought hard to apply to all immigrants and workers," Free said. "How exactly would these staffing plans work if companies were not allowed to use free and nearly free labor of detainees?" In a statement, GEO responded that the volunteer work program at all of its 143 immigration facilities, as well as the minimum wage rates and standards, are set by the government. The company also said that all of its facilities, including the Aurora center, are "highly rated and provide high-quality services in safe, secure and humane residential environments pursuant to the federal government's national standards." "GEO has consistently, strongly refuted the allegations made in this lawsuit, and we intend to continue to vigorously defend our company against these claims," the company said in the statement. The organizations filing briefs supporting plaintiffs in the suit against GEO, a massive for-profit prison company, include the Southern Poverty Law Center and the National Employment Law Project.GEO: Facing legal challenges. 

Jul 10, 2015
Lawsuit: Immigrants Got $1 a Day for Work at Private Prison

Immigrants who were detained at a suburban Denver facility while they awaited deportation proceedings are suing the private company that held them, alleging they were paid $1 a day to do janitorial work, sometimes under threat of solitary confinement. They scrubbed toilets, mopped and swept floors, did laundry, and prepared and served meals, among other duties, according to attorneys who filed the lawsuit in October on behalf of nine current and former detainees. On Monday, U.S. District Court Judge John L. Kane declined a request from the Florida-based GEO Group Inc. to dismiss the claims against it, allowing the federal lawsuit to proceed. GEO is one of the largest contractors with the federal government for the detention of immigrants suspected of being in the country illegally or legal permanent residents with criminal records who face deportation. The company has denied wrongdoing and said in court documents the work is voluntary and it is abiding by federal guidelines in paying $1 a day. Attorneys for the immigrants say they'll move to expand the case by seeking class-action status. They say the judge's ruling clears the way to gather more information from GEO through discovery proceedings about how many detainees were put to work. The attorneys said they've heard from clients for years that immigrants labor for almost nothing at private detention facilities around the country, but they called the lawsuit filed in Colorado the first of its kind. "It's their job to run the facility, and instead they used and abused us to run the facility, and that's why we're suing," said plaintiff Alejandro Menocal, 53. Menocal is a legal permanent resident who was detained for three months at GEO's Aurora facility while facing deportation last fall. GEO responded in a statement that its facilities "provide high-quality services in safe, secure and humane residential environments, and our company strongly refutes allegations to the contrary." The company added attorneys and immigrant advocates have full access to its facilities that U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement contracts with, and they're routinely audited and inspected by the government. Anita Sinha, a faculty member at Washington College of Law, American University who has researched immigrant labor at private detention centers, said the daily wage was set by Congress in 1950 and hasn't been adjusted for inflation. She said on a daily basis, immigrants facing deportation occupy about 34,000 beds nationally in private and government-run facilities. More than 60 percent of the beds are in privately held facilities, she said. The company succeeded in getting the judge to dismiss a claim that it violated Colorado's minimum wage law because detainees were paid $1 a day instead of $8.23 an hour. In tossing that claim, Kane said the detainees do not qualify as employees under state law. But he said the lawsuit could proceed on the allegations that GEO unjustly profited from the detainees and violated the federal Trafficking Victims Protection Act, which prohibits forced labor. "Legally, this is a big step forward," said Hans Meyer, Menocal's attorney. It's common for inmates at state or privately run prisons to work below minimum wage, in some cases for the purpose of gaining job training. "The difference here is that these are civil immigration detainees who are not being held for any criminal violation," said Brandt Milstein, another attorney in the lawsuit. Menocal, a Mexican immigrant from Baja California, was released in September and kept his legal resident status after his attorney won his case. He said he faced deportation proceedings last year when authorities learned after a traffic stop that he had a criminal record from 2010 for driving with a suspended license and having his wife's prescription painkillers in his car. He pleaded guilty and served a year of probation soon after, but he didn't come to the attention of immigration authorities at the time. The lawsuit focuses only on the GEO's suburban Denver facilities, but the American Civil Liberties Union said the claims are similar to allegations they've heard around the country. "There is a name for locking people up and forcing them to do work without paying real wages. It's called slavery," said Carl Takei, staff attorney at the national prison project of the ACLU. The monetary amount the lawsuit seeks hasn't been determined.

Jul 9, 2015

Update below: In a move that could have resounding consequences for corrections practices and the for-profit prison industry in particular, a Denver federal judge has refused to dismiss a lawsuit filed by nine federal immigrant detainees, who allege that a private prison contractor forced them to perform maintenance and cleaning jobs for little or no pay. The suit, which is seeking class-action status, accuses the company of violating federal laws prohibiting human trafficking and forced labor and seeks millions of dollars in damages. Senior U.S. District Judge John L. Kane threw out some of the plaintiffs' claims but allowed the case against The GEO Group, which operates a detention facility in Aurora under contract with U.S. Immigrant and Customs Enforcement (ICE), to move forward. The decision was hailed as "a tremendous victory for civil immigrant detainees nationwide" by Nina DiSalvo, the executive director of Towards Justice, a Denver-based nonprofit that partnered with several law firms to bring the action. "The judge's decision allows us to address the systemic problems with GEO's treatment of immigrant workers throughout the legal system." One of the largest private prison companies in the world, GEO operates 66 correctional facilities in the United States, including ICE detention centers in Washington, Florida, and Colorado. The complaint alleges that Aurora detainees participate in a "voluntary work program" that includes laundry, kitchen and cleaning jobs, for which they are paid a dollar a day. Six detainees are also selected at random each day to clean the living pods without pay; refusal can result in being placed in solitary confinement. The lawsuit argued that the arrangement violates Colorado's minimum wage law. Judge Kane disagreed, since the state's labor laws specifically carve out an exception for prisoners, who are not considered employees. But Kane found merit in the claim that GEO's approach to the pod-cleaning assignments — do it or get thrown in the hole — may be a violation of the federal Trafficking Victims Protection Act, which prohibits involuntary servitude and coercive methods to demand work "by means of force, threats of force, physical restraint, or threats of physical restraint." The judge also allowed a claim involving unjust enrichment to proceed. Most correctional systems depend on cheap inmate labor to keep costs down. Kane's denial of GEO's motion to dismiss doesn't signal an end to that practice. It does, however, raise questions about the ability of a private contractor to demand that inmates perform basic maintenance or cleaning tasks under threat of further punishment. "Using forced detainee labor is an integral tool in maintaining GEO's profitability under its contracts with ICE," Nashville attorney Andrew Free, a co-counsel in the case, noted in prepared statement. "The court's decision today represents an important step forward in ending that morally bankrupt business model." GEO has not responded to a request for comment on the ruling. We'll update this post if a response is forthcoming.  Update, 1:00 p.m.: The GEO Group corporate headquarters has provided a statement in response to our request for comment that reads, in part: "GEO’s facilities, including the Aurora, Colo., facility, provide high quality services in safe, secure, and humane residential environments, and our company strongly refutes allegations to the contrary. The volunteer work program at immigration facilities as well as the wage rates and standards associated with the program are set by the federal government. Our facilities adhere to these standards as well as strict contractual requirements and all standards set by ICE, and the agency employs several full-time, on-site contract monitors who have a physical presence at each of GEO’s facilities."

Oct 23, 2014

GEO Sued for Minimum Wage and Forced Labor Law Violations, and Unjust Enrichment

Yesterday, Alejandro Menoca, Marcos Brambila, Grisel Xahuentitla, Hugo Hernandez, Lourdes, Argueta, Jesus Gaytan, Olga Alexaklina, Dagaberto Vizguerra, and Demetrio Valerga on their own behalf and others similarly situated filed a complaint informing a federal judge that their guards were breaking the law.  The complaint, filed by an intrepid team of lawyers who spent extensive time interviewing detainees at the GEO facility in Aurora, Colorado, states: In the course of their employment by GEO, Plaintiffs and others scrubbed bathrooms, showers, toilets, and windows throughout GEO’s Aurora facility. They cleaned and maintained GEO’s on-site medical facility, cleaned the medical facility’s toilets, floors and windows, cleaned patient rooms and medical staff offices, swept, mopped, stripped, and waxed the floors of the medical facility, did medical facility laundry, swept, mopped, stripped, and waxed floors throughout the facility, did detainee laundry, prepared and served detainee meals, assisted in preparing catered meals for law enforcement events sponsored by GEO, performed clerical work for GEO, prepared clothing for newly arriving detainees, provided barber services to detainees, ran the facility’s law library, cleaned the facility’s intake area and solitary confinement unit, deep cleaned and prepared vacant portions of the facility for newly arriving detainees, cleaned the facility’s warehouse, and maintained the exterior and landscaping of the GEO building, inter alia. The complaint also includes violations of a federal law prohibiting Forced Labor, 18 U.S.C. § 1589: 5.  GEO or its agents also randomly selected six detainees per pod each day and forced them to clean the pods. In the handbook that GEO distributed to the detainees, GEO announced a “Housing Unit Sanitation” policy informing the people held at the facility that “[e]ach and every detainee must participate in the facility’s sanitation program.” 6. GEO or its agents forced Plaintiffs and other civil immigration detainees to clean the facility’s pods for no pay and under threat of solitary confinement as punishment for any refusal to work. And the complaint references Colorado Common Law prohibiting Unjust Enrichment.  In precise and riveting language the 21 page brief brilliantly lays out the legal problems with the private prison industry's business model. The attorneys who filed this lawsuit are Brandt Milstein, Boulder, CO; Andrew Turner, Denver, CO; Alexander Hood, Golden, CO; Hans Meyer, Denver, CO; and Andrew Free, Nashville, TN. I have been filing FOIA requests on this topic for several years and Andrew Free is currently representing me in extricating additional material for use in a working paper that will be revised for publication next year in the Georgetown Immigration Law Journal.  For more research on related violations, please go here.

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)  

Arthur Gorrie Correctional Centre, Arthur Gorrie, Queensland
Sep 16, 2018
Prisoner, 21, dies in shared jail cell after being found unconscious by security guards
A 21-year-old prisoner has died in his Brisbane jail cell after being found unconscious. The inmate was found by guards in a shared cell at around 11.30 pm on Saturday at the Arthur Gorrie Correctional Centre. Prison officers administered CPR but he was declared dead when paramedics arrived around midnight, a Queensland Corrective Services spokeswoman said on Sunday. Queensland Police have been notified of the man's death and are being assisted in their inquiries by Queensland Corrective Services. The prisoner's death in the shared cell comes after it was revealed in a 2017 report there were around 315 'double-up' cells at the Brisbane prison and prison population had increased by 35 per cent since 2012. The report also revealed a 500 per cent increase in serious assault as well as a 700 per cent spike in sexual assault between 2013 and 2016. One former inmate, who left the jail in April, said the facility was 'one of the most nastiest and corrupt prisons I've ever been in,' according to ABC News. In an 18 month period leading up to September 2017, 37 inmates had attempted suicide - compared to just two in 2012. A prison officer at the jail said under the cover of anonymity that overcrowding was a major reason behind a rise in violence and attempted suicide. They said: 'It's drastically overcrowded. It seems calm as anything then all of a sudden, it'll kick-off and some are huge incidents with multiple people involved. Arthur Gorrie is one of two private prisons in Queensland, managed by GEO Group Australia.

Mar 23, 2018
Handcuff key missing for three days in notorious jail
An investigation is underway after a handcuff key went missing from Queensland’s Arthur Gorrie jail. Ray Hadley received a tip on Thursday that the key had been lost on March 15 and wasn’t found until three days later. It’s the second time in a week the prison’s operator GEO Group has come under fire. An extendable baton was stolen from guards at Parklea Correctional Centre last week and still hasn’t been found. Queensland Corrective Services has released a statement following the incident: “At about 5pm on March 15, a custodial officer at Arthur Gorrie Correctional Centre reported a handcuff key missing. A range of searches were conducted throughout the facility before the key was located on March 18. An investigation is underway, and, as it is considered a major security incident, GEO is required to provide a report into the incident to Queensland Correctional Services.” GEO Group has a history of dismal administration at the Parklea facility and their contract has now been terminated.

Sep 29, 2017
Arthur Gorrie and Southern Queensland correctional centre management contracts out to tender
QUEENSLAND’S high-security private jails, deemed unsafe by staff, are set for the biggest shake-up in 10 years as management contracts go out to tender. Arthur Gorrie and Southern Queensland jails could get new management after the State Government expressed its desire to have a local operator. However, there are currently no jail management operators in Queensland, opening the door for international applications. American-based GEO group currently runs the high-risk Arthur Gorrie and UK-based SERCO runs Southern Queensland, near Gatton, however both have been criticised for their management and treatment of staff. Queensland Minister for Police and Corrective Services Mark Ryan says a “Backing Queensland Jobs” policy will apply to prison contracts. Staff claim the prisons have become dangerous to work in, with not enough guards to patrol overcrowded units. Strikes took place at Arthur Gorrie earlier this year as tensions reached breaking point, with claims officers were forced to supervise more than 60 inmates. The number of inmates at the jail was yesterday 1175, or more than 30 per cent over capacity. The two providers were given a six-month contract extension until mid-2018 but Corrections Minister Mark Ryan said the tender would have a “Backing Queensland Jobs” policy. Potential operators could include Core Civic, the largest private company in the US, which has also been criticised for understaffing and violence. One of its prisons was dubbed “Gladiator School”. Privately run prisons save the State Government about $10 million a year. A Queensland audit report last year found it cost the State Government $175 per prisoner a day, but private operators were about 20 per cent cheaper. Opposition corrections spokesman Tim Mander said: “This news only adds to the uncertainty around our prisons which have been turned into fight clubs under Labor because they have failed to deal with chronic overcrowding.” It’s unclear if the jails will be advertised as one contract or if they will be separated.

Jul 8, 2017
High-security Queensland prison enters second day of lockdown amid claims of overcrowding, drugs and prisoner violence
A Queensland high security prison remains in lockdown after correctives officers were refused entry by the facility's state government-employed operators. Arthur Gorrie Correctional Centre in Brisbane's southeast went into lockdown at 6am on Friday over an industrial relations dispute. The lockdown started when 40 corrections officers were refused entry to the establishment after a long-running dispute over work conditions. It comes amid ongoing enterprise bargaining negotiations between staff and the state government contracted GEO Group. United Voice spokesman Damien Davie said GEO Group had formally notified union members the staff lockout would continue on Saturday, reported Sky News. Mr Davie said prison staff had called on the company to boost staff numbers to deal with overcrowding. 'There's currently one officer to between 36 and 40 (inmates), and sometimes as bad as one to 62. There should be two on the floor at all times.' He said staff shortages had led to assaults on officers, prisoner violence, drugs in the prison going undetected and prisoner behaviour not being properly addressed. A spokesman for Queensland Corrective Services said it would not seek to interfere or influence EBA negotiations. 'In the event of industrial action, GEO is responsible to ensure the safe and secure operation of the facility,' said in a statement. Responding to concerns that staff and inmate safety would be put at greater risk once the lockdown was lifted, GEO Group spokesman Ken Davis said on Friday they planned to cool heightened tensions among inmates with icecream.  'I don't know what (the prison manager) will do when he lifts it ... we can go out and buy them ice creams or something like that for their dessert,' Mr Davis said.  A correctional officer at the centre said it currently housed around 1200 inmates, despite having a single bed capacity for 890 men with a maximum security wing for up to 18 inmates. 'In the last couple of months we've had an officer knocked unconscious,' he said. The officer told AAP the flow of undetected drugs had also risen, the most common being Subutex, generally used to treat opioid addiction but abused by inmates. He also said requests to double staff numbers and address a culture of bullying had been ignored. 'There is a culture of bullying from management and it comes down through the supervisors,' he said. 'They just don't seem to want to hear about it. They, I believe, are more concerned about their profits.' GEO Group spokesman Ken Davis declined to provide the current officer to inmate ratio, referred questions about staffing to the state government and denied bullying claims. He said only two reports of bullying had been made in the 2016/17 financial year and that both were found to be unsubstantiated. Mr Davis also denied Mr Davie's claims staff assaults were under-reported and said additional officers were brought on when the prison was over-crowded.

Jul 7, 2017
That should help them chill out! Security says it will give ICECREAM to angry inmates at locked down high security prison
A company employed by the Queensland government to manage a high-security prison in lockdown over an industrial relations dispute says it will cool heightened-tensions among inmates with ice cream. The Arthur Gorrie Correction Centre in Brisbane's southeast went into lockdown about 6am on Friday when 40 corrections officers were refused entry due to a long-running dispute over work conditions. It comes amid ongoing enterprise bargaining negotiations between staff and the state government contracted GEO Group. Responding to concerns that staff and inmate safety would be put at greater risk once the lockdown was lifted, GEO Group spokesman Ken Davis said the prison's general manager would buy prisoners ice cream. 'I don't know what (the prison manager) will do when he lifts it ... we can go out and buy them ice creams or something like that for their dessert,' Mr Davis said. United Voice spokesman Damien Davie said staff had called on the company to boost staff numbers to deal with overcrowding. 'There's currently one officer to between 36 and 40 (inmates), and sometimes as bad as one to 62. There should be two on the floor at all times. 'That is leading to assaults on our members, it's leading to prisoner violence, drugs in the prison going undetected, prisoner behaviour not being corrected, just sheerly due to the lack of boots on the ground.' A correctional officer at the centre said it currently housed around 1200 inmates, despite having a single bed capacity for 890 men with a maximum security wing for up to 18 inmates. 'In the last couple of months we've had an officer knocked unconscious,' he said. The officer told AAP the flow of undetected drugs had also risen, the most common being Subutex, generally used to treat opioid addiction but abused by inmates. He also said requests to double staff numbers and address a culture of bullying had been ignored. 'There is a culture of bullying from management and it comes down through the supervisors,' he said. 'They just don't seem to want to hear about it. They, I believe, are more concerned about their profits.' GEO Group spokesman Ken Davis declined to provide the current officer to inmate ratio, referred questions about staffing to the state government and denied bullying claims. He said only two reports of bullying had been made in the 2016/17 financial year and that both were found to be unsubstantiated. Mr Davis also denied Mr Davie's claims staff assaults were under-reported and said additional officers were brought on when the prison was over-crowded. A spokesman for Queensland Corrective Services said it would not seek to interfere or influence EBA negotiations. 'In the event of industrial action, GEO is responsible to ensure the safe and secure operation of the facility,' said in a statement. 

Jun 25, 2017
Raw sewage dumped behind Arthur Gorrie Correctional Centre after jail sewage pump failure
A TRUCK shipped sewage out of a Brisbane jail for weeks after a pump “mechanical failure” in one of the cell blocks. The Courier-Mail has been told the truck dumped the waste near railway lines behind Arthur Gorrie Correctional Centre after the breakdown in “Whiskey Block”. The Department of Environment and Heritage Protection was notified. “A sewage truck pumped out tanks every two hours and dumps raw sewage,” a prison source said, claiming it was at risk of flowing into the nearby creek. “In one of the prisoner blocks the sewerage system has been broken for months.” The Arthur Gorrie Correctional centre in Wacol. The waste was reportedly dumped near the railway line behind the jail. The truck was used to pick up the waste and dump it for up to 12 hours a day for weeks before a pump was fixed this month. A Queensland Corrective Services spokeswoman confirmed there was a mechanical failure of a sewage pump. Questions about costs, how much was transported and if environmental reports were gathered were not answered. The jail is run privately by GEO Group but the Department of Public Works looks after facilities. “The pump was repaired as quickly as possible,” the QCS spokeswoman said. “For a period of time sewage was transported off site. We are not aware of any effluent spillage.” The Department of Environment and Heritage Protection was advised the sewage pump station overflow released an unknown amount of untreated wastewater to land, a day after it happened in April. “The Department of Housing and Public Works reported that the contaminant had been contained on-site and was not released to the receiving environment,” a spokesman said. “Appropriate steps were taken to isolate and clean the area.” The jail’s management also engaged environmental consultants to help with the clean up. “The potential for environmental harm was low and no further compliance action is required at this stage,” the spokesman said. It comes as 10-year contracts for Arthur Gorrie and Southern Queensland jails are about to end. The Courier-Mail has been told they are likely to get a one-year extension – without it necessarily being put out to tender. A spokeswoman said “commercial in-confidence applies to all government contracts”. “QCS strictly adheres to all guidelines around the conclusion of contracts and the tendering process.”

Aug 14, 2014

A prison officer at Arthur Gorrie Correctional Centre has been stood down after she publicly raised concerns about resources and over-crowding at the Wacol prison. United Voice union delegate Kylie Muscat on Tuesday went public with her concerns following the assault of a fellow prison officer on Friday morning. She said overcrowding, under-resourcing and a prisoners' smoking ban had made conditions for prison staff unsafe. The story was first published by Fairfax Media about 1.30pm on Tuesday. United Voice prisons co-ordinator Michael Clifford said within a few hours of that story appearing online Ms Muscat had been suspended on full pay. “She’s pretty devastated, but she’s also a very courageous union delegate who knows what she’s doing is the right thing,” he said. Management of the Arthur Gorrie Correctional Centre has been outsourced to the Sydney-based GEO Group since 1992. A spokesman for GEO said the only comment the company would make was that Ms Muscat had been “suspended for breaching company policy”. Mr Clifford said Ms Muscat had been suspended as an act of “pure intimidation”. “This is an employer who should be addressing the safety issues that Kylie is raising. Instead of addressing the safety issues, they’re attacking the person that’s trying to have them addressed,” he said. “This is just about intimidating people into silence. “There’s a lot of talk in this country about free speech, but there’s a lot of employers who think free speech stops the minute you walk inside the workplace, that you don’t have a right to raise these sorts of issues.” Mr Clifford said Ms Muscat’s actions were protected under the Fair Work Act section 346, which protects people involved in industrial activity from “adverse action”. “She is a union delegate – she can and should raise safety issues and, if they’re not being addressed, she should do whatever it takes to make sure they are addressed and that’s what she was doing,” he said. “…Kylie was fulfilling her role as a union delegate and not talking as an employee of Arthur Gorrie Correctional Centre. “Under the Fair Work Act, union delegates have rights to pursue the industrial interests of their members without any adverse action from employers. “So, our union will be writing to GEO today. They can expect a letter from our lawyers identifying that we believe they are in breach of those provisions of the act and we’ll be asking them to cease any action they’re taking against Kylie.” The GEO spokesman would not comment on United Voice’s claim the move breached the Fair Work Act. Mr Clifford said the union would back Ms Muscat “100 per cent of the way”. “It’s not just Kylie,” he said. “All union delegates and members know that they have the right to speak up about safety issues in the workplace, particularly when those safety issues are life threatening.”

November 24, 2013

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
 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 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
Jul 10, 2015
Lawsuit: Immigrants Got $1 a Day for Work at Private Prison

Immigrants who were detained at a suburban Denver facility while they awaited deportation proceedings are suing the private company that held them, alleging they were paid $1 a day to do janitorial work, sometimes under threat of solitary confinement. They scrubbed toilets, mopped and swept floors, did laundry, and prepared and served meals, among other duties, according to attorneys who filed the lawsuit in October on behalf of nine current and former detainees. On Monday, U.S. District Court Judge John L. Kane declined a request from the Florida-based GEO Group Inc. to dismiss the claims against it, allowing the federal lawsuit to proceed. GEO is one of the largest contractors with the federal government for the detention of immigrants suspected of being in the country illegally or legal permanent residents with criminal records who face deportation. The company has denied wrongdoing and said in court documents the work is voluntary and it is abiding by federal guidelines in paying $1 a day. Attorneys for the immigrants say they'll move to expand the case by seeking class-action status. They say the judge's ruling clears the way to gather more information from GEO through discovery proceedings about how many detainees were put to work. The attorneys said they've heard from clients for years that immigrants labor for almost nothing at private detention facilities around the country, but they called the lawsuit filed in Colorado the first of its kind. "It's their job to run the facility, and instead they used and abused us to run the facility, and that's why we're suing," said plaintiff Alejandro Menocal, 53. Menocal is a legal permanent resident who was detained for three months at GEO's Aurora facility while facing deportation last fall. GEO responded in a statement that its facilities "provide high-quality services in safe, secure and humane residential environments, and our company strongly refutes allegations to the contrary." The company added attorneys and immigrant advocates have full access to its facilities that U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement contracts with, and they're routinely audited and inspected by the government. Anita Sinha, a faculty member at Washington College of Law, American University who has researched immigrant labor at private detention centers, said the daily wage was set by Congress in 1950 and hasn't been adjusted for inflation. She said on a daily basis, immigrants facing deportation occupy about 34,000 beds nationally in private and government-run facilities. More than 60 percent of the beds are in privately held facilities, she said. The company succeeded in getting the judge to dismiss a claim that it violated Colorado's minimum wage law because detainees were paid $1 a day instead of $8.23 an hour. In tossing that claim, Kane said the detainees do not qualify as employees under state law. But he said the lawsuit could proceed on the allegations that GEO unjustly profited from the detainees and violated the federal Trafficking Victims Protection Act, which prohibits forced labor. "Legally, this is a big step forward," said Hans Meyer, Menocal's attorney. It's common for inmates at state or privately run prisons to work below minimum wage, in some cases for the purpose of gaining job training. "The difference here is that these are civil immigration detainees who are not being held for any criminal violation," said Brandt Milstein, another attorney in the lawsuit. Menocal, a Mexican immigrant from Baja California, was released in September and kept his legal resident status after his attorney won his case. He said he faced deportation proceedings last year when authorities learned after a traffic stop that he had a criminal record from 2010 for driving with a suspended license and having his wife's prescription painkillers in his car. He pleaded guilty and served a year of probation soon after, but he didn't come to the attention of immigration authorities at the time. The lawsuit focuses only on the GEO's suburban Denver facilities, but the American Civil Liberties Union said the claims are similar to allegations they've heard around the country. "There is a name for locking people up and forcing them to do work without paying real wages. It's called slavery," said Carl Takei, staff attorney at the national prison project of the ACLU. The monetary amount the lawsuit seeks hasn't been determined.

Jul 9, 2015

Update below: In a move that could have resounding consequences for corrections practices and the for-profit prison industry in particular, a Denver federal judge has refused to dismiss a lawsuit filed by nine federal immigrant detainees, who allege that a private prison contractor forced them to perform maintenance and cleaning jobs for little or no pay. The suit, which is seeking class-action status, accuses the company of violating federal laws prohibiting human trafficking and forced labor and seeks millions of dollars in damages. Senior U.S. District Judge John L. Kane threw out some of the plaintiffs' claims but allowed the case against The GEO Group, which operates a detention facility in Aurora under contract with U.S. Immigrant and Customs Enforcement (ICE), to move forward. The decision was hailed as "a tremendous victory for civil immigrant detainees nationwide" by Nina DiSalvo, the executive director of Towards Justice, a Denver-based nonprofit that partnered with several law firms to bring the action. "The judge's decision allows us to address the systemic problems with GEO's treatment of immigrant workers throughout the legal system." One of the largest private prison companies in the world, GEO operates 66 correctional facilities in the United States, including ICE detention centers in Washington, Florida, and Colorado. The complaint alleges that Aurora detainees participate in a "voluntary work program" that includes laundry, kitchen and cleaning jobs, for which they are paid a dollar a day. Six detainees are also selected at random each day to clean the living pods without pay; refusal can result in being placed in solitary confinement. The lawsuit argued that the arrangement violates Colorado's minimum wage law. Judge Kane disagreed, since the state's labor laws specifically carve out an exception for prisoners, who are not considered employees. But Kane found merit in the claim that GEO's approach to the pod-cleaning assignments — do it or get thrown in the hole — may be a violation of the federal Trafficking Victims Protection Act, which prohibits involuntary servitude and coercive methods to demand work "by means of force, threats of force, physical restraint, or threats of physical restraint." The judge also allowed a claim involving unjust enrichment to proceed. Most correctional systems depend on cheap inmate labor to keep costs down. Kane's denial of GEO's motion to dismiss doesn't signal an end to that practice. It does, however, raise questions about the ability of a private contractor to demand that inmates perform basic maintenance or cleaning tasks under threat of further punishment. "Using forced detainee labor is an integral tool in maintaining GEO's profitability under its contracts with ICE," Nashville attorney Andrew Free, a co-counsel in the case, noted in prepared statement. "The court's decision today represents an important step forward in ending that morally bankrupt business model." GEO has not responded to a request for comment on the ruling. We'll update this post if a response is forthcoming.  Update, 1:00 p.m.: The GEO Group corporate headquarters has provided a statement in response to our request for comment that reads, in part: "GEO’s facilities, including the Aurora, Colo., facility, provide high quality services in safe, secure, and humane residential environments, and our company strongly refutes allegations to the contrary. The volunteer work program at immigration facilities as well as the wage rates and standards associated with the program are set by the federal government. Our facilities adhere to these standards as well as strict contractual requirements and all standards set by ICE, and the agency employs several full-time, on-site contract monitors who have a physical presence at each of GEO’s facilities."

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
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
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 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


Mar 20, 2019
Santa Rosa County inmate indicted for the murder of fellow inmate

An inmate at Blackwater Correctional Institution in Milton was indicted by a Santa Rosa County grand jury for first-degree premeditated murder. Thomas H. Fletcher was indicted for allegedly killing fellow inmate Kenneth J. Davis, State Attorney Bill Eddins announced Tuesday morning, adding that the state has filed a notice of intent to seek the death penalty in its case. The indictment comes nearly six months after Davis was found unresponsive at the private prison around 3 p.m. on Sept. 22, 2018. At 3:33 p.m., EMS confirmed Davis' death. Davis, 33, was serving 25 years for attempted first-degree murder in Walton County. Fletcher was serving a sentence for convictions in Broward County for murder, robbery and trafficking cocaine in 1994. Fletcher is next scheduled to appear in court on March 28 in Santa Rosa County.

Sep 28, 2018
Authorities investigating inmate death at Blackwater River Correctional
Authorities are investigating an inmate death at Blackwater River Correctional Institution. Inmate Kenneth Davis died at the private prison Saturday, though Blackwater CI officials were not available for comment Monday afternoon. Florida Department of Law Enforcement spokesman Jeremy Burns confirmed the agency is involved in the investigation but could not comment further, citing the active nature of the case. Florida Department of Corrections records show Davis, 33, was serving 25 years for attempted first-degree murder in Walton County.

Jan 12, 2018
Corrections officer stabbed at private prison
MILTON — A corrections officer at Blackwater River Correctional Facility was stabbed by an inmate Tuesday morning. “She’s going to be fine,” said state Sen. Doug Broxson, whose district houses the prison. The assault occurred at 8:40 a.m. during a “routine post assignment,” according to a statement released Thursday by The Geo Group, the private organization that runs the Blackwater River prison east of Milton. “The officer received immediate medical attention and was transported to an area medical facility. The incident was referred to law enforcement and remains under ongoing investigation,” the release said. Santa Rosa County Sheriff Bob Johnson said his agency had not been contacted to investigate the stabbing. Dexter McWhite, 56, who is serving a life sentence for aggravated assault, robbery and armed robbery, attacked the officer, according to The GEO Group. The GEO Group did not release the identity of the victim, whose injury was not life-threatening. The prison has been on lockdown since Tuesday, an inmate’s family member said. It remained locked down Thursday evening, according to the prison staff. Questions about the stabbing were deflected by the Florida Department of Corrections to the state Department of Management Services. The DOC said Managment Services has oversight of private prisons. In a late afternoon email, a Management Services spokeswoman said The GEO Group would respond to all questions about the stabbing. Blackwater River administrators also directed questions to The GEO Group. Broxson finally stepped in late in the day to break the gridlock. He said he had communicated to officials at the state agencies and Blackwater the need for future transparency. “I encouraged the departments to be more open in the process,” he said.

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/ "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/ "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
Oct 17, 2017 
Government contractors took bribes to remove immigrants' electronic monitors, feds say
Two government contractors and a relative who posed as an immigration official are facing federal charges they took bribes in exchange for illegally removing electronic monitors from immigrants who faced deportation. Investigators say the trio requested and collected bribes of between $1,850 and $5,000 per person from several immigrants in Broward and Miami-Dade counties from November 2010 to April 2014. Elisa Pelaez, 54, of Miami Shores, and Miami cousins Ginou Baptiste, 48, and Fritz Cyriaque, 50, are all charged with conspiring to commit bribery. Cyriaque, a self-employed car salesman, is also charged with impersonating a federal officer. Pelaez and Baptiste worked for Behavioral Intervention Inc, a Geo Group company, which had a contract with the U.S. Department of Homeland Security to supervise immigrants who were released from detention while deportation and immigration proceedings were pending against them. Company workers were supposed to supervise immigrants released under the Intensive Supervision Appearance Program. Many of the released immigrants were required to wear electronic or GPS monitors. Immigration attorneys said the program is designed to reduce costs and the number of people in detention. It is designed for immigrants who are not considered a threat to public safety or national security, but are considered to be at risk of committing criminal acts or failing to appear at immigration hearings. Pelaez and Baptiste, who have both been fired from their jobs, abused their positions to approach immigrants they were supervising and offer to have their electronic monitors removed in exchange for cash payments, prosecutor Francis Viamontes said. The women targeted people they thought had enough money and referred them to Cyriaque, who pretended to be an Immigration and Customs Enforcement official. After the victims handed over the money, Pelaez and Baptiste instructed their co-workers to remove the monitors. Investigators said all three of the suspects used intimidation to discourage the victims from reporting what happened. Cyriaque, a convicted felon with prior arrests for grand theft and possession of a firearm, acted as the “security” or “muscle” for the group, Viamontes said in court. She said he threatened the victims with deportation: “He would tell them things like ‘I can bury you.’” Cyriaque is a Haitian citizen who has been a legal permanent resident of the U.S. for 32 years and has eight children, his attorney said in court. Baptiste and Cyriaque have pleaded not guilty and are jailed, for now, in Broward County. Pelaez is due in court in the next several days. Authorities ask anyone with information to call Agent Erik Gonzalez at the Office of the Inspector General for the Department of Homeland Security at 954-538-7555

April 29, 2013

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
Feb 6, 2015 OurKingdom
New report from HM Inspectorate of Prisons on Campsfield House, run by outsourcer Mitie, reveals:

• 16 year old detained ‘by mistake’

• Torture victims held in defiance of Home Office rules

• Dirty, overcrowded accommodation

Still from Standoff Films: Campsfield House: An Immigration Removal Centre'  When prisons inspectors paid a surprise visit to Campsfield House immigration lock-up last August they found asylum seekers living in dirty, overcrowded conditions and torture survivors locked up in violation of Home Office rules. And they discovered that a child had been wrongfully imprisoned for 62 days.

Still, their report on Campsfield, which is run by the outsourcer Mitie, concludes that “overall this was a very positive inspection”, giving some indication of the standards expected of the Home Office’s commercial contractors. In their report, published this week, the inspectors noted that three children were held at Campsfield between 2012 and 2013 in contravention of government policy. One boy was assessed by social services as being an adult and held for 62 days. He was released only after he obtained legal representation and his solicitor threatened the social services department with a judicial review. Social workers then made a second assessment and concluded that the boy was 16 years old. The inspectors said that he “was held by mistake and should never have been detained”. They said Mitie’s policy on safeguarding children was “up to date and comprehensive”, but there was no named member of staff who took the lead on safeguarding children. Mitie told the inspectors that some staff had “taken an e-learning package” in child safeguarding, but the company was “unable to provide exact figures”. The inspectors noted: “A member of staff was to attend training with Oxfordshire’s local safeguarding children board after our inspection.” Overcrowding was a problem. “Too many detainees lived in cramped conditions, with four sharing accommodation designed for two,” the inspectors wrote. What’s more: “The dining area was not big enough for the number of detainees using it and hygiene in the kitchen required improvement … The laundry was not big enough for the population. During our inspection two washing machines did not work and detainees said this was a regular occurrence.” Ironically, given that Mitie is best known as a cleaning company, the report recommended: “Toilets and showers in all residential units should be deep cleaned … some toilets and showers were very dirty and needed maintenance ... bed linen was in poor condition and we saw soiled pillows and mattresses.” Perhaps these problems arose in part from the fact that Mitie is paying the detainees just £1 per hour to do these jobs. The inspectors found 24 detainees worked in the dirty kitchen, and in total “Seventy-four job roles, totalling 1265 hours of paid work per week, were offered ... Opportunities included cleaning, kitchen and laundry work”. The inspectors found that asylum-seekers who had suffered torture were being locked up at Campsfield, in defiance of Home Office rules. Rule 35 of the Detention Centre Rules (a statutory instrument) requires doctors working in detention centres to inform the detaining authority of persons who may have been victims of torture. On receipt of such evidence (in what’s known as a Rule 35 report), the responsible official is required to consider this information and release the person. But at Campsfield the screening process “failed adequately to safeguard the most vulnerable detainees, including those who had been tortured.” The inspectors found that doctors’ reports were incomplete, and “did not provide adequate clinical judgements to inform caseworkers’ decisions”.  “In two separate cases, a doctor stated that a detainee might have been the victim of torture but caseworkers maintained they should remain in detention stating that this would not impact on the detainee’s health; the impact on their health was irrelevant as Home Office policy is not to detain torture survivors. In another case, a caseworker maintained that a person should remain in detention because he ‘did not mention being tortured during your screening interview ….” Healthcare at Campsfield is provided by The Practice, a private medical company that last year agreed a “significant financial settlement” with the mother of Brian Dalrymple, an American tourist with mental health problems who had claimed asylum after landing in Britain. An inquest jury found that “medical neglect” had contributed to his death. The inspectors found evidence of short-staffing at Campsfield: “Only one member of staff was available at night which was not compliant with current healthcare guidelines”, said the inspectors. And some staff cut corners. “Nurses had labelled items supplied from stock inadequately, which could have posed a risk to patients,” the inspectors said. “A nurse was observed giving a detainee a dose of ibuprofen without referring to his notes for contraindications, which was potentially unsafe.” None of the Mitie custody staff had been trained to use the defibrillator, a life-saving piece of equipment if detainees have heart attacks, which happens from time to time on the ‘detention estate’. The inspectors reported that legal support for detainees in Campsfield was insufficient: “Too many detainees who required an immigration lawyer did not have one.” The half-hour legal aid sessions were “oversubscribed”, and there was not enough advice about bail. Perhaps inevitably then, inspectors found: “Some detainees were detained for unreasonable periods of time. Home Office caseworkers sometimes failed to act with reasonable diligence and expedition.” It took the Home Office more than seven months before they even interviewed one detainee about his asylum claim. One undocumented Iranian man had been held for almost ten months, although the Home Office had no clear plans to obtain the paperwork needed to deport him to Tehran. The inspectors concluded: “There was little prospect of this case being resolved within a reasonable period and ongoing detention therefore appeared illegitimate.” For all that, Nick Hardwick, the chief inspector, concluded: “Overall, this was a very positive inspection. Staff and managers at Campsfield House should be congratulated in dealing professionally and sensitively with detainees who were going through what, for many, was a difficult and unhappy time.” Among problems the report neglects to mention are the fire at Campsfield in October 2013 that spread thanks to an absence of sprinklers causing 180 people to be evacuated. The mass hunger-strikes by detainees, most recently in May 2014, just months before the inspection, are also absent. The inspectors did not attribute blame to Mitie, focusing instead on reforms needed at the national level by the Home Office.

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.

Casper Re-Entry Center, Wyoming
Jan 12, 2019
Dangerous’ fugitives dressed in camouflage captured near pond in Monroe County
An escaped inmate from Wyoming and his alleged accomplice were found dressed in full camouflage and lying face down on the bank of a pond near Johnsonville Road in Monroe County. The Monroe County Sheriff’s Office reports Richard Fountaine and Kimberly Belcher were taken into custody at just before 1 p.m.. Friday on Ga. 42 near the Logwall Church area. Investigators received information from confidential informants of Fountaine and Belcher’s whereabouts. Earlier in the day sheriff’s investigators were trying to determine whether the couple took a Ford Explorer from 543 Spear Road in the south part of the county. However, investigators determined that was not the case. Belcher’s SUV in which the two fled from Wyoming in was found Wednesday and investigators learned that Belcher was a suspect in Fountaine’s escape. Thursday, the sheriff’s office issued a lookout for Fountaine and Belcher who were last seen near Logwall Church Road off of Ga. 42 on Wednesday afternoon. Fountaine, 29, and Belcher, 25, are accused of breaking into a building in that area, the release stated. Fountaine was serving a sentence for burglary escaped from a lock-down unit of a halfway house in Casper, Wyoming. He was discovered missing Dec. 28, having climbed a wall and a chain-linked fence to escape in a waiting sports utility vehicle, according to the Sidney Herald newspaper in Montana and the Casper Star-Tribune newspaper in Wyoming. The halfway house is run by a private prison company that contracts with the Wyoming Department of Corrections. Belcher was a staff member who allegedly helped him escape. Multiple agencies assisted in locating Fountaine and Belcher. A GSP helicopter was also used in the manhunt.

Jan 11, 2019
Sheriff's office: Staff member helped Wyoming inmate escape
A man who in December broke out of a lock-down facility in Casper did so with the assistance of a staff member, court documents allege. Staff at Casper Re-Entry Center discovered Dec. 28 that Richard T. Fountaine II had gone missing from a secure unit of the facility. Fountaine was serving a sentence in the facility after being convicted of burglary. Certain inmates at the facility are allowed out for parts of the day to go to work. Those inmates will sometimes fail to return to the facility when they are expected back. Fountaine, however, did not simply fail to return. According to a search warrant request filed by law enforcement Dec. 29 in Natrona County Circuit Court, Fountaine climbed a wall and chain-link fence before getting into an SUV and leaving the area. Law enforcement believe Kimberly Belcher, who worked at the facility, helped Fountaine escape. The search warrant request states that Belcher gave Fountaine a cellphone while he was in the facility. The warrant request did not include any explanation for Belcher’s actions. After Fountaine made his escape, his brother told law enforcement that Belcher and Fountaine were traveling to Texas together, the warrant request states. As of Wednesday, Fountaine and Belcher were still missing. The Casper Re-Entry Center is a privately owned and operated facility that houses inmates completing prison stints. It sometimes serves as an enhancement to probationary sentences. The Wyoming Department of Corrections contracts with the GEO Group, a private prison company, to house inmates in the facility. In recent years, other workers at the facility have made news after prosecutors accused them of having sexual encounters with inmates.

Central Arizona Correctional Facility
, Florence, Arizona
Mar 16, 2016
GEO Group Fails With Challenge to EEOC Conciliation
March 14 — The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission and a related Arizona agency followed proper procedure in suing a prison operator for unlawful sex discrimination on behalf of a class of female correctional officers, the Ninth Circuit held March 14. Reversing a lower court, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit found that the civil rights enforcement agencies adequately conciliated with the GEO Group Inc. before suing the company, as required by federal and state laws. The agencies described how a class of female prison guards were subjected to discrimination, harassment and retaliation, and they engaged with the company in a formal mediation session in an attempt to resolve their claims. That is all that's required under recent U.S. Supreme Court precedent, the appeals court said. It also ruled that the EEOC and the Arizona Civil Rights Division both satisfy their pre-suit conciliation requirements in class action litigation when they try to conciliate “on behalf of an identified class of individuals,” as they did here. The agencies don't need to attempt to conciliate the claim of each class member, the court said. All potential class members who allege they were subjected to bias on or after 300 days before the original charging party filed with the EEOC may participate in the lawsuit, the court added. It further held that any individual employee isn't required to have filed a new charge if her allegations are “already encompassed within” the ACRD's investigative finding, or if it's “like or reasonably related to” the allegations in the original charge. The decision reaffirms the U.S. Supreme Court's holding in Mach Mining, LLC v. EEOC, 135 S. Ct. 1645, 126 FEP Cases 1521 (2016), that although EEOC conciliation efforts are subject to court review, such review is limited
. In addition, the Ninth Circuit joins three other federal appeals courts in holding that the EEOC isn't required to conciliate each prospective class member's individual claim on an individual basis prior to filing a class action lawsuit.  In a statement to Bloomberg BNA March 14, EEOC General Counsel P. David Lopez said the commission is “very pleased with the Ninth Circuit's decision.” He said the ruling “allows the EEOC to proceed with its claims that twenty female corrections officers experienced sexual harassment and retaliation while they worked at two prisons operated by the Geo Group. This ruling means that the victims, who were brave enough to step forward and participate in the EEOC's lawsuit, will now have their day in court.” GEO Group declined to comment March 14 when contacted by Bloomberg BNA. The original charge in the case was filed by Alice Hancock, a correctional officer at the Arizona State Prison, Florence West Facility. She alleged that Sgt. Robert Kroen grabbed her crotch and pinched her vagina and that GEO Group failed to remedy the harassment after she filed an incident report. Hancock further alleged that in retaliation, three of her co-workers complained that she made an offensive comment, causing her to be suspended without pay for 15 days. She ultimately was fired three months after filing her discrimination charge. The ACRD investigated Hancock’s charge and found evidence substantiating her allegations. It also found evidence that male supervisors had “created an offensive and hostile work environment based on gender that adversely affected Hancock and a class of female employees working at the facility,” and that GEO Group didn't take reasonable measures to prevent and correct the harassment. The state agency sued in Arizona state court, and the case was later removed to federal court. The U.S. District Court for the District of Arizona granted summary judgment in favor of GEO Group, and the EEOC and the ACRD appealed. Judge Consuelo Maria Callahan said the agencies raised four issues on appeal, including the proper scope of agency conciliation under Title VII of the 1964 Civil Rights Act and the Arizona Civil Rights Act. Also at issue, she said, were when Title VII’s 300-day limitations period starts to run in an EEOC class action; whether an aggrieved employee in an EEOC class action is required to file a new charge of discrimination for acts that occur after the agency's reasonable cause determination has been issued; and whether one of the aggrieved employees on whose behalf the agencies sued presented triable issues of hostile work environment harassment. Finding in favor of the agencies on all four questions, the Ninth Circuit revived their claims. On the issue of the proper scope of conciliation, it cited Mach Mining in finding the agencies' pre-suit efforts were adequate. The EEOC and the ACRD in the reasonable cause determination sent to the company made reference to a “class” of female employees who were subjected to discrimination, harassment and retaliation at the Florence West and another GEO facility. They also invited GEO Group to conciliate, and during a formal mediation session, they proposed a settlement that included damages, injunctive relief and a class fund for unnamed class members, Callahan found. The appeals court also found support in Mach Mining for its holding that the EEOC and state agencies satisfy their pre-suit conciliation obligations in class actions when they try to conciliate on behalf of an identified class of individuals prior to suing, rather than attempt to conciliate each class member's claim individually. In Mach Mining, it said, the Supreme Court ruled that the EEOC is only required to identify what the employer did that was illegal and which employees or what class of employees were discriminated against. That conclusion is consistent with the EEOC's broad enforcement powers as well as prior holdings by the Third, Fourth and Sixth circuits, Callahan added. The appeals court said the lower court also erred in finding that the date of the ACRD's reasonable cause determination, rather than the date of Hancock's charge, was the proper date for measuring the timeliness of each individual class member's claims. As in class actions brought by private plaintiffs, the starting date of a class action is the date the original charging party filed her charge, the Ninth Circuit ruled. “Nothing in the text of the statute supports the district court’s imputation of the employee’s time limit into the EEOC’s duty to notify the employer of the results of its investigation,” Callahan wrote. Judges Stephen Reinhardt and A. Wallace Tashima joined the opinion.

Mar 14, 2016
9th Circ. Revives Prison Sex-Harassment Claims

PHOENIX (CN) - Sexual harassment claims against a private prison company brought on behalf of female employees by Arizona's attorney general and a federal agency should be reinstated, the Ninth Circuit ruled Monday. The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) and the Arizona Law Department's Civil Rights Division sued the Florida-based Geo Group in 2010 on behalf of a number of its female employees at the Arizona State Prison-Florence West facility, including Alice Hancock. Hancock, a corrections officer, claimed she had been subjected to discrimination, harassment and retaliation by male co-workers who would comment that they wanted to "ram [them] from behind" and asking them to "suck [the alleged harasser's] dick."  In 2012, U.S. District Court Judge Susan Bolton ruled for Geo, finding the EEOC and Arizona failed to properly conciliate with Geo. The judge dismissed several employees who had not committed alleged acts within 300 days of a reasonable cause determination issued by the Arizona Civil Rights Division, and dismissed the hostile work environment claim of employee Sofia Hines because the conduct was not sufficiently severe or pervasive. On Monday, Ninth Circuit Judge Consuelo Callahan wrote for a three-judge panel that EEOC and the civil rights division properly attempted to resolve their claims with Geo. "The EEOC and the division invited Geo to conciliate the matter in their reasonable cause determinations," Callahan wrote. "Additionally, the EEOC and the division conveyed a conciliation letter to Geo that outlined a proposal to settle Alice Hancock's charge of discrimination and the claims of other aggrieved employees of Geo." Even if the EEOC and the Arizona's Civil Rights Division did not conciliate, Bolton's dismissal of employee claims was not proper, the Ninth Circuit ruled. "[T]he appropriate remedy would be a stay of proceedings to permit an attempt at conciliation, not the dismissal of the aggrieved employees' claims," Callahan wrote. Callahan also found that Bolton improperly dismissed the claims of employees who had not alleged discriminatory acts within 300 days of a reasonable cause determination by the civil rights division. The proper starting date is 300 days before Hancock's charge, not the reasonable cause determination, she ruled. "This is evident from the plain language of Title VII that requires a 'charge' be filed 'within 300 days after the alleged unlawful employment practice occurred,'" Callahan wrote. According to Callahan, Bolton's dismissal of Hines' hostile work environment was also incorrect. Callahan wrote that, while Hines' claims that a male employee of Geo "made unwanted physical contact with her by 'spank[ing]' her butt in front of inmates and a cadet" and repeatedly talked dirty to her might not "in itself be sufficient to support a hostile work environment claim, their cumulative effect is sufficient to raise material issues of fact as to whether the conduct was so severe or pervasive to alter the conditions of the workplace." Callahan ordered Bolton to reinstate the EEOC and the Arizona Civil Rights Division's dismissed claims. Pablo Paez, vice president of corporate relations for the Geo Group, declined to comment on Monday's ruling. A spokeswoman for the Arizona Attorney General's Office did not immediately respond to a request for comment Monday.

Sep 25, 2015

Florence prison firm sued again for sex harassment

FLORENCE — A company that operates a prison in Florence has been sued for the second time regarding allegations of sexual harassment and retaliation. The GEO Group, which runs Central Arizona Correctional Facility, allegedly violated federal law by allowing sexual harassment of a female correctional officer and retaliating against her for being involved in a previous lawsuit brought by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission against the company for alleged systemic sexual harassment, according to a news release from the EEOC. The lawsuit, which was filed today, claims GEO allowed Roberta Jones to be sexually harassed by its employees and managers since 2007. The EEOC alleges that some male superior officers and co-workers frequently bragged about sexual exploits around Jones and that a minimum of two superior officers touched her in an unwanted manner. Another superior officer is claimed to have frequently referred to his penis as “Little Jeffie” in her presence. EEOC also alleges retaliation against Jones tied to a prior lawsuit. That lawsuit, which is under appeal in the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, claims GEO subjected Jones to a “coercive investigative interview” and to multiple disciplinary actions, including termination. The lawsuit seeks back pay and other monetary damages and compensation for emotional distress and punitive damages. “Sexual harassment and sexual advances upon women interferes with their ability to perform their jobs and violates federal civil rights laws,” EEOC Phoenix regional attorney Mary Jo O’Neill said in a statement. “Title VII’s proscription against retaliation is one of its most important protections.” EEOC Phoenix District Director Rayford Irvin said in a statement that retaliation is the most common claim received by EEOC, accounting for about 45 percent of total claims. “This seems to be a growing problem that our federal agency takes very seriously,” he said. “Workers absolutely have the right to report harassment at work without negative consequences, and EEOC is here to help.”

Apr 29, 2013        

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
 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
Jan 16, 2019
Bexar County to Federal Government: County jail doesn't have room for federal detainees
SAN ANTONIO - Hundreds of detainees are housed at the Central Detention Facility in downtown San Antonio. A sign in front may say GEO Group but that's not who owns the building. The county does. GEO is a private company that runs the jail in the 200 block of Laredo Street for the federal government. The county says the arrangement doesn't make financial sense anymore. "This was going to be problematic for Bexar County taxpayers," Bexar County Sheriff Javier Salazar said. It's why County Commissioners passed a resolution Tuesday to start the process of ending that contract with GEO. The county has been working to ensure that the University of Texas in San Antonio has the room to expand in the downtown area. Another resolution passed in October of 2018 shows just that. But the detention facility is in the way. Sheriff Salazar said a deal was made several years ago, saying that when this transition began, those federal detainees would be moved into the county jail. That deal was made when the county jail had more room but now Salazar said they are maxed out at an average of 4200 inmates. "In doing the math and knowing 'OK, that was done when the jail population was down' (but) here now that it is up, here what is it going to cost me now? I'm going to lose bed space," Salazar said. Had the detainees been moved to the county jail, Sheriff Salazar said some of the current county inmates would have needed to be sent to other jails outside the county and the building itself would have needed to be reconstructed. "It would've been about $10 million for construction cost plus about $10 million a year to house out those inmates elsewhere," Salazar said. The question now remains. Where will the federal detainees be held? "I don't mind helping find the solution, I can't be the solution though," Salazar said. The federal government said it is working to find placement for the detainees. It is still unclear when the contract between the county and GEO expires but the county says it has time to figure it all out.

Sep 29, 2018
Ex-jail employee gets 40 months for trying to smuggle drugs inside
A former employee of a San Antonio jail that houses federal pretrial inmates has been sentenced to 40 months in prison for trying to smuggle drugs to prisoners. U.S. District Judge Fred Biery handed the sentence on Thursday to Ray Alexander Barr, 30, who worked in the kitchen of the 600-bed Central Texas Detention Facility, which is run by Florida-based The GEO Group. Barr pleaded guilty last year to attempting to provide contraband to prisoners. He admitted that on Dec. 27, 2016, he agreed to smuggle alcohol and crystal methampetamine into the jail in exchange for money. FBI agents arrested Barr immediately after he accepted payment but before he could smuggle in the contraband. “This was out of character for Mr. Barr,” said his lawyer, Derek Hilley. “After his arrest, Mr. Barr took the bull by the horns and pursued every opportunity to better himself. He obtained a great job where he could provide for his children and contribute to society. ... He looks forward to putting this behind him.” The FBI and U.S. Marshals Service conducted a joint investigation of Barr and other guards at the jail who also have since pleaded guilty for similar contraband crimes. “The men and women in law enforcement and detention are held to a higher standard in our judicial system and our community,” said U.S. Marshal Susan Pamerleau. The “sentence sends a strong message that this violation of trust will not be tolerated.” Christopher Combs, special agent in charge of the FBI in San Antonio, added: “The FBI is committed to working with our law enforcement partners to ensure employees of correctional facilities who abuse their authority and violate their positions of trust for their own personal benefit are held accountable.”

Sep 20, 2018
Ex-GEO guard, boyfriend sentenced to federal prison in drug sting
SAN ANTONIO - A former guard of a private federal detention facility was sentenced Wednesday to 57 months in federal prison for agreeing to provide crystal methamphetamine to an inmate, federal officials said. Abigail Jolynn Abrego, 28, was also sentenced to supervised release for three years after completing her prison term. Abrego's 55–year–old boyfriend, Leonard Belmares, was sentenced to 46 months in federal prison followed by three years of supervised release. The two pleaded guilty earlier this year to one count of attempting to provide contraband in prison. Federal officials said the pair met with an undercover agent on November 2017 and agreed to smuggle methamphetamine into the Central Texas Detention Facility, run by the private prison company GEO, and give it to an inmate in exchange for $1,500. The defendants also admitted to working together on at least three previous occasions to smuggle drugs and/or contraband into the facility in exchange for money, federal officials said. Abrego and Belmares were ordered by a federal judge to surrender on or before Nov. 30 to begin serving their prison terms.

Sep 19, 2018
Guards illegally used disability placards, plates to park in front of detention facility
SAN ANTONIO - An undercover investigation by the KSAT 12 Defenders showed corrections officers at a downtown detention facility used disability placards and disabled veteran license plates belonging to other people to park as close to the building as possible. The investigation also showed that while guards parked in spots directly in front of the Central Texas Detention Facility, located in the 200 block of South Laredo Street, people on oxygen and people using canes and other mobility devices were forced to park in lots farther west of downtown. The facility, which holds inmates in federal custody and is run by a private corrections company called the GEO Group, is located between Public Safety Headquarters and the Bexar County Justice Center. "It's a severe lack of consideration for fellow human beings," Melanie Cawthon, executive director of disABILITYsa, said after reviewing the footage. Cawthon said her nonprofit tries to educate, advance and engage individuals with disabilities. "By parking in accessible parking, it protects them from being hit by another vehicle, from having a heart attack because they are not supposed to walk far or even just the exhaustion of having a physical or mobility disability," said Cawthon, who added that accessible parking is a safety issue, not a convenience issue. One GEO guard, identified through public records as JoAnn Campa, was repeatedly seen parking a Camaro with disabled veteran license plates in metered spots for up to 10 hours per day. The Camaro was left August 29 in a front-row metered spot as Campa traveled off-site. She was later dropped off by a sport utility vehicle registered to her husband, and the vehicle followed Campa as she left for the day. Days later, during an unplanned interview, Campa admitted the plates belong to her husband. "If we would just have common decency and common courtesy," said Cawthon. State law allows vehicles with disabled veterans plates to park in accessible spots for an unlimited period as long as the vehicle is driven by the veteran or the veteran is being transported in it. The use of the plates extends to the spouse of the veteran only after the veteran has passed away and as long as the spouse remains unmarried. An Austin-based disability advocate said via email that despite this law, Texas courts have traditionally extended the parking privileges to family members. "There are laws in place, but they are not enforced," said Cawthon. A second guard, identified through public records as Mario Castillo and coincidentally also driving a late-model Camaro, was captured on camera in August and September repeatedly using a disability placard to park in front of the detention facility. On days when no metered spots were available at the start of his afternoon shift, Castillo was seen parking in the nearby Bexar County parking garage, then walking without issues while carrying an equipment belt and backpack. Castillo, when approached for an unplanned interview, admitted the placard belongs to his mother-in-law. "On those days, I was assisting my mother-in-law," said Castillo, who added that he dropped her off before driving to work. When asked if it was fair that people with disabilities were forced to park farther away while Castillo took a spot up front, he apologized. "Courtesy-wise, there's no reason for him to take up an accessible parking spot," said Cawthon. "Our community needs to work together and solve this issue for our fellow citizens who have disabilities." "Our company believes that parking laws and regulations should be observed and complied with. The parking spaces in question are public and are not within our company's control or monitoring," GEO Group Executive Vice President Pablo Paez said via email this month. Paez declined a request for an on-camera interview and did not respond to a follow-up email asking if Campa and Castillo would be disciplined. Center City Development and Operations Department Director John Jacks, whose department handles parking enforcement, released the following statement: Our Parking Enforcement Officers do not have the authority to question whether or not an individual is disabled. According to City ordinance, individuals who have been issued a disabled permit, placard or plate by the state may park in City-owned parking facilities or on-street parking meters without paying a fee. A Bexar County information technology employee was also seen using a disability placard to park in front of the detention facility. The employee expressed remorse and said he improperly used the placard because of a lack of parking downtown, according to a county spokeswoman. The employee is now using a park and ride bus service to commute to work, the spokeswoman said. Cawthon encouraged anyone wanting to raise awareness about accessibility parking issues to download the Parking Mobility app. The app allows users to report disabled parking abuse. Cawthon said while Bexar County remains in the data-gathering stage, other communities like Hays County and Travis County have gotten on board with the app and more than 50,000 citations have been issued since the app was launched. Two bills that would have made it more difficult for drivers to use specialty license plates and accessible parking placards as illegal instruments failed to get passed during the last legislative session.

Jun 14, 2017
Former prison guard sentenced for inmate sex
SAN ANTONIO - A former prison guard was sentenced Tuesday for having sex with an inmate at a private prison in downtown San Antonio. Barbara Jean Goodwin, 35, was sentenced to five months imprisonment to be followed by five months home confinement. She also was ordered to serve a two-year supervised-release term and register as a sex offender, federal officials said in a news release. Goodwin pleaded guilty in March to one count of sexual abuse of a ward. Goodwin admitted that from February 2016 to August 2016, she engaged in sexual acts with a federal prisoner who at the time was under her custodial, supervisory or disciplinary authority at the Central Texas Detention Facility–G.E.O., officials said. She was ordered to surrender in July to start her prison term.

Apr 21, 2015
SAN ANTONIO -- A stabbing between two inmates Monday afternoon at a private prison facility in San Antonio has left one person with life-threatening injuries, authorities said. A spokesman with the Bexar County Sheriff's Office said Monday that one inmate stabbed another around 3:45 p.m. Monday at the jail, located in the 200 block of S. Laredo St., and that the victim was taken to San Antonio Military Medical Center with life-threatening injuries. No further information was immediately available. The Central Texas Detention Facility is a private jail run by The Geo Group. According to its website, the facility has a capacity for 688 people, and houses male and female U.S. Marshal Service prisoners and U.S. Immigration & Customs Enforcement detainees.

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.
Charlton County facility

Apr 24, 2019

'Large altercation' at private prison in Folkston contained
FOLKSTON, Ga. - Fighting between two large groups of inmates Monday night at a privately run prison for federal inmates prompted a lockdown and concern among people who live near the Charlton County facility. The D. Ray James Correctional Facility said two "geographic inmate groups" got into several physical altercations just after 8 p.m. Officials were able to contain the fighting, get all the inmates back into their cells and the institution remained secure. All staff and inmates were accounted for and there was never a threat to public safety or the community, according to Christopher Ferreira, manager of corporate relations for The GEO Group, which runs the facility. The prison is under contract with the Federal Bureau of Prisons and the U.S. Marshals Service with a maximum capacity of 2,067 male inmates, according to The GEO Group's website.

Cheyenne Mountain Re-Entry Center,

Nov 29, 2017
Inmate killed At Colorado Springs For-Profit Prison : CDOC
COLORADO SPRINGS, CO -- An inmate at a Colorado Springs prison re-entry facility died Nov. 26 after an assault from another inmate or inmates that took place earlier in the week, the Colorado Dept. of Corrections reported. Daniel Pena, 64, died of injuries Nov. 26 after being assaulted at the Cheyenne Mountain Re-Entry Center, 2925 E Las Vegas St. A statement from CDOT said the assault investigation began on Nov. 20, but did not specify when the assault happened. The assault was described as, "an isolated incident involving offenders, no correctional officers were injured," in a press release. CDOC Spokesman Mark Fairbairn told the Denver Post that Pena had been sentenced in 2014 for illegally drugging a victim, was scheduled for release on March 21, 2019. He was eligible for parole. Cheyenne Mountain Re-entry Center is one of four for-profit prisons in Colorado, run by the Geo Group, Inc. The facility is described as a place where male inmates live and are given job training and therapy resources prior to ending their prison terms. The CDOC website calls Cheyenne Mountain, "the last stop before community reintegration." The Department of Corrections Inspector General's office and El Paso County District Attorney's office are now treating the investigation as a homicide, the departments said in a press statement. The investigation is considered "active" and more details will be released later.

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 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)

Coleman Hall facility, Philadelphia, PA
 Nov 22, 2017
The Geo Group To Close Philadelphia Facility, Lay Off 51 Employees
The Geo Group, Inc. filed a Workers Adjustment and Retraining Notification with the Pennsylvania Department of Labor and Industry earlier this month. The notice indicates the Florida-based company will close its Coleman Hall facility at 3950 D Street and lay off 51 employees. The Geo Group, formerly known as Wackenhut Corrections Corporation, is the leading provider of detention, correctional and community reentry services, according to its website. The company operates 73 facilities worldwide, including 66 in the United States. Employee separations are expected to taken place on November 20. The reason for the closure was not cited in the filing.

Columbiana County Jail
Jun 16, 2018
Jail operation problems become alarming
(Editor’s Note: This is the second of a two-part story examining issues at the Columbiana County Jail.)
LISBON –At least as big an issue as cost is whether Columbiana County should resume operating the jail because of problems at the facility. Most of the problems appear to be with jail operations, and staff turnover at the jail has been a contributing factor in recent years due to low starting pay, resulting in the jail being understaffed. County Prosecutor Robert Herron said you cannot expect to attract qualified applicants to be a corrections officer for what GEO pays. “That shouldn’t be news to anyone, but someone starting off being paid $10 an hour is not going to be able to control a gangbanger,” he said. “It just isn’t going to happen.” Starting pay until recently was $10.91 but has since been raised to $14. Herron said there is no question the situation at the county jail has worsened in recent years to the point where he is alarmed. “When CiviGenics came in we didn’t have the … concerns we have now,” he said. “I think the problem is management and operations have deteriorated significantly, (as well as) the type of inmates they are expected to control.” CiviGenics is the company that ran the jail from 1998 until 2007, when the company was purchased by Community Education Centers. GEO took over jail operations in early 2017 after acquiring CEC. Between the fall of 2015 and November 2017 the jail went through six wardens. “I think that’s a direct reflection of what we’re talking about,” Herron said. During the Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Corrections 2017 inspection of the facility, it found the jail met 220 of the 231 jail standards. The jail was non-compliant with minimum staffing standards, and it was not properly able to house inmates at times due to overcrowding, resulting in violent and non-violent offenders being housed in the same cell and same unsupervised areas. The jail was also cited for failing to follow its own policies requiring periodic personal inmate inspections and those inspections be documented, reinforce staffing policies and procedures, and conduct fire drills every three months. As Herron mentioned above, part of the problem at the jail is the general character of the average inmate has changed. He said they are seeing more and more inmates with long criminal records who have served multiple stints in prison. Increased drug trafficking in the county has brought gang members from large cities, such as Cleveland, and how they conduct themselves in jail has rubbed off on local inmates. “They have no respect for anything and are much more violent … You have someone who doesn’t give a damn about themselves or anyone else,” Herron said. “The type of inmates we deal with today are different than the inmates we dealt with 15-20 years ago.” When combined with inexperienced and insufficiently trained corrections officers, “you have a real dangerous situation,” he said. Over the past year, county Common Pleas Court Judge C. Ashley Pike has begun questioning inmates and corrections officers about jail operations when they appear before him in court. Pike said he was originally in favor of privatizing the jail but now he is not so sure. “I thought it was an interesting and innovative approach … I certainly thought it was worth a try,” he said. “But in recent years my perception is … that the concept is not working well, and I have to say, as some lawyers have said, if it’s such a good idea, why aren’t the other 87 counties (in Ohio) following?” Pike said. His chief concern is the jail appears to be understaffed and poorly run to the point where the safety of inmates and corrections officers are in jeopardy. “The fact we may have saved lots of money over the years is good. But that is of little comfort to somebody who loses a loved one out there, whether it be an inmate, a corrections officer or probation officers who have a legitimate reason to be out there,” Pike said. As a judge responsibl