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Albert Sneed Correctional Facility
La Villa, Texas
Texson Management Group
April 17, 2000
Two inmates, one convicted of aggravated sexual assault and attempted capital murder, the other a repeated burglar, climbed through an air vent and over a fence to escape. They escaped from the private prison in Texas around 4:00 a.m. (Valley Morning Star, Rio Grande Valley, TX)

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

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

November 10, 2004 KTRE
The old Angelina County jail is locking up. The county started leasing the building about eight months ago to the Correctional Services Corporation so dozens of undocumented immigrants could be housed there. The Immigration and Naturalization Service can no longer afford that arrangement.

Bartlett State Jail
Bartlett, Texas
CCA

April 30, 2011 Killeen Daily Herald
The largest private corporation operating prisons in the U.S. is suing the city of Bartlett after the city threatened last week to shut off the water supply to a state jail the company operates. Corrections Corporation of America Inc. (CCA) was granted a temporary injunction Thursday, preventing Bartlett from cutting off water and sewer to the 1,049-bed Bartlett State Jail. CCA alleges the city has severely over-billed the company because of a faulty water meter. Since December, CCA has disputed the amount the city has charged for use of its water supply. According to court filings, CCA believes Bartlett charged the company for 44 percent more water than was actually used at the jail. The disputed water bills amount to $213,237. CCA claims it requested hearings with city officials each time it disputed a bill, but was rebuffed. The company also submitted checks to the city for water usage CCA is not disputing; however, the city has not cashed those checks. In the summer of 2010, jail officials became suspicious that the jail's water and sewer bills were excessive, court documents state. CCA hired two experts to examine water usage at the Bartlett State Jail. One expert confirmed the suspicions of CCA officials by examining the jail's water tank. The expert, Sutton G. Page, found that over a 24-hour period, the city's water meter showed the jail used 68,595 gallons more than the amount he measured. A second expert, an engineer named William Johansen, examined the city's water meter. In an affidavit filed with the court, Johansen states that the water meter is not working properly. The jail's low-flow meter was inoperable, so Johansen measured it as 100 percent inaccurate. The high-flow meter made a measurement error between 14.4 percent and 95 percent, Johansen stated. "It is my opinion that the meters at the Bartlett, Texas, State Jail do not function properly and cannot reliably account for the amount of water flowing through the meters," he stated in court documents. According to Bartlett's city charter, city officials must accept CCA's account of the water bills. The charter places a time limit on water disputes. If city officials do not meet with a water customer or respond to their complaints about a disputed bill within a certain timeframe, the city is automatically determined at fault. CCA claims city officials never attempted to meet with jail officials regarding disputed bills. City officials could not be reached for comment.

January 7, 2010 AP
A boil water notice has been issued for Bartlett where a shortage has led to using an emergency well and portable toilets for a state jail. The 1,049-bed Bartlett State Jail ordered portable restrooms and 5,000 bottles of water after briefly losing city service. Steve Owen with Corrections Corp. of America says employees Wednesday occasionally shut off water so an onsite tower could refill. Water levels in the city's two elevated storage tanks have been declining. Officials suspect a pump malfunction. A backup well, which failed an assessment less than two years ago, was brought online this week after passing a bacterial test. Mayor Arthur White did not immediately return a message Thursday from The Associated Press.

February 25, 2009 FOX 7
A former corrections employee, armed with a gun, had a central Texas jail on full alert this morning. A swat team was called out to the Bartlett State Jail around 11:00 Tuesday for a hostage situation. The standoff ended early Wednesday morning, when a former employee of this jail was taken into custody. A spokesperson for the Texas Department of Criminal Justice tells us the woman confronted a current employee in the parking lot late last night. Another employee came out to see what was going on, and the former employee pulled out a gun and took the two men hostage, forcing them back into the jail. That brought out the swat team and DPS, and the jail was locked down. The hostages were in the jail's visitation area and were able to escape. At that point, this was a standoff between the woman with the gun and the law enforcement officers outside. By 1:25 this morning, the TDCJ spokesperson tells us the woman was taken into custody and taken to the Williamson county jail in Georgetown. This is a state jail under the authority of t-d-c-j, but it's run by a private company called corrections corporation of America. The woman accused of taking two employees hostages here is a former employee, who stopped working here about a year ago.

January 8, 2002
Kyndall Dwight James, 22, who escaped from the Bartlett State Jail in 2000, pleaded guilty Monday to charges of escape, a second-degree felony, and unlawful use of a motor vehicle, a state jail felony.  James was sentenced to 20 years in prison.  David Lee Sanders, a second Bartlett inmate accused of escaping with James, will stand trial today.  (The Statesman)

August 28, 2000
Two convicted felons escape after breaking into the maintenance shop and stealing a cutting tool to cut through the 12-foot perimeter fence.  They were caught the next day after a high speed car chase that ended with the escapees' stolen truck tires being shot out. (Austin American-Statesman, August 29, 2000)

Ben Reid Community Correctional Facility (AKA Southeast Texas Transitional Center)
Houston, Texas
GEO Group (bought Cornell Companies)

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

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

January 25, 2011 KTRK
High risk, armed and dangerous are
the words being used to describe a sex offender who absconded from a Houston halfway house on Monday night. It's been nearly 24 hours since Timothy Rosales, Jr. disappeared from the halfway house and he is no where to be found. The Texas Department of Public Safety has since added him to it's Top 10 Most Wanted Fugitives list. 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.

September 9, 2004 Houston Chronicle
Drug use by employees at a privately run halfway house for paroled felons led to seven resignations this week after the facility's corporate owners called for staffwide drug tests. The departure of the seven workers — including administrators, security guards and caseworkers — was the latest problem at the Ben Reid Community Correctional Facility, which houses up to 500 felons in northeast Houston.
The facility is operated by the Houston-based Cornell Companies Inc. The seven employees who resigned did so after testing positive for drug use. In May, its director of employee training, Roy Thomas, 50, was arrested after a police officer, acting on a tip, searched his car and found 212 tablets of hydrocodone, an addictive painkiller, and 123 tablets of Xanax, an anti-anxiety drug, police said. Cornell fired the Ben Reid House's director and several high-level managers last year, citing poor management and violations of numerous company policies.

Bexar County Courthouse
Bexar, Texas
Champion National Security

June 06, 2001
Dissatisfied with current security contractor, Commissioners Court voted unanimously Tuesday to hire its own civilian guards to man the entrances to Bexar County's three courthouse facilities.  Henry Martinez, deputy chief of courthouse security for Sheriff Ralph Lopez, said the current contractor, Champion National Security, was assessed more than $85,000 in fines for guards showing up late and for other performance infractions that occurred over a 16-month period that ended April 30.  Commissioners also voted to reject all bids received by the March 30 deadline to take over security operations.  Among the bidders were Champion, DSS Services, the Wackenhut Corp. and Lobo Security.  "You're going to have a better-trained guard in the future than we've had in the past," said County Judge Nelson Wolff, who last week met with Lopez and Commissioner Paul Elizondo to iron out the details of the sheriff's proposal.  "The position of the judges, unanimously, is that it (courthouse security) needs to be done by the Sheriff's Department," said 226th District Judge Sid Harle, who is serving as the county's criminal administrative judge.  (The San Antonio Express-News)

Bexar County Jail
Bexar County, Texas
Aramark, Premier Management Enterprise

May 13, 2009 KSAT
Most people can simply run out to the store when they need a jar of peanut butter or a loaf of bread, but people behind bars are a captive audience for such necessities, literally. Inmates at the Bexar County jail are allowed to buy simple things like ramen soup, soap and candy bars at the jail commissary, run by Aramark, but now some wonder if they're not being ripped off. "The prices are just outrageous and ridiculous,” said one inmate. "I think they're outrageous,” said another. “They're terrible." Abel Gallardo agrees. "Here we go baby. Where are we going, HEB?" Gallardo said to his small child as he pushed the child in a toy car near the home they share on the southside. Gallardo is trying to raise two kids while his wife is in jail. He said the jail commissary’s high prices make it hard on families to get by, because money has to be spent behind bars. "They need to treat these ladies and these guys right,” Gallardo said. “Yeah, they committed a crime, well they're sitting in jail paying for it." In a comparison shopping trip, the KSAT 12 Defenders found that a bar of Irish Spring soap is $1.29 in the commissary, but $.75 at a store. Candy bars are $1.09 in the commissary versus $.74 in the store. Chili is $3.59 in the commissary, $1.45 at the store. A tuna pouch is $2.99 in the commissary, $.89 in the store and the ramen soup is $.69 in the commissary, but only $.15 in the store. "It's just straight highway robbery," said an inmate. But the jail said prices here are in line with convenience store prices, not grocery store prices, and that the county takes 35 percent of the profits from commissary profits and puts the money back into inmate services.

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

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

November 8, 2007 Caller-Times
A new commissary company started this week in Kleberg County Jail after Premier Management Enterprises and the county mutually ended Premier's contract. Premier was investigated in Bexar County for buying a trip to Costa Rica for former Sheriff Ralph Lopez. Lopez resigned and pleaded no contest to three charges related to the trip. Premier, based in Lafayette, La., also operated in Kleberg County since former Sheriff Tony Gonzalez signed the contract in fall 2004. Sheriff Ed Mata said last month he wanted to end Premier's contract because of the Bexar investigation and because of performance issues. Keefe Commissary Network, based in St. Louis, began providing commissary services Monday to the Kleberg County Jail. The one-year contract gives the county 24 percent of net sales, defined as gross sales minus non-commissioned items such as stamps. Keefe was chosen over Swanson Sales Corp., which said in a proposal it could offer up to 30.25 percent of net sales. Commissaries, which supply snacks and some toiletries, are considered privileges for inmates. Texas law gives sheriffs sole discretion over the contracts. A county's proceeds must be spent on items or activities that contribute to inmates' well-being, such as education, libraries, writing materials, clothing and hygiene items, according to state law. Kleberg Chief Deputy Willie Vera said Keefe offered the better overall package despite the lower commission. Some items will be marked up to make up part of the difference. Plus, the company offered a one-year contract, while Swanson initially wanted five, then agreed to three, Vera said. Premier had signed a five-year contract with Gonzalez, and Vera said the current sheriff isn't willing to sign such a long contract. "We have a year to evaluate this company," Vera said. "If he needs to go out and search for another company the door is still open." Keefe also recently began service to the Nueces County Jail, making it easier for the company to add Kingsville to its routes, Vera said. Keefe made the transition smoothly and the Kleberg County Jail was never without commissary services, he said. Premier ran the Nueces County Jail commissary under a contract signed by former Sheriff Larry Olivarez until Nueces County Sheriff Jim Kaelin terminated the agreement after taking office in January, citing performance issues. Keefe gives Nueces County a commission of 39 percent of net sales. Mata and Kaelin have said their staffs told them their predecessors, Gonzalez of Kleberg County and Olivarez of Nueces County, went on that trip to Costa Rica in August 2005. Neither Mata nor Kaelin has documentation corroborating the reports. Gonzalez left office in 2004 after losing an election to Mata, and Olivarez resigned in January 2006 to run for county judge. Gonzalez and Olivarez have not responded to requests for interviews. Premier's principals, Patrick and Michael LeBlanc, also own LCS Correctional Services, which is building a private prison to house federal inmates near Robstown.

October 1, 2007 Caller-Times
Two local sheriffs are distancing themselves from their predecessors' decisions to award jail commissary contracts to a company involved in a criminal investigation in Bexar County. Kleberg County Sheriff Ed Mata said last week officials are researching ways to end that county's five-year agreement with the company, Premier Management Enterprises. Nueces County Sheriff Jim Kaelin gave Premier a 30-day termination notice on Jan. 24, after taking office. Former Bexar County Sheriff Ralph Lopez resigned and pleaded no contest to accepting a trip to Costa Rica from the principals of Premier. The Lafayette, La., based company runs the county jail commissary. Neither Kaelin nor Mata has documentation corroborating what their staffs have told them -- that their predecessors, Larry Olivarez of Nueces County and Tony Gonzalez of Kleberg County, went on that August 2005 trip. Neither Gonzalez nor Olivarez has responded to requests for comment. There is no known investigation in Nueces or Kleberg counties. "At this point no case has been submitted to me," Kleberg County District Attorney John Hubert said. "If something is submitted to me, I take every case on its own merits. I don't have any information other than what I've read in the papers and -- no offense to anybody -- that's not really evidence." Nueces County District Attorney Carlos Valdez was out of the office late last week, and the Bexar County District Attorney's Office did not respond. The FBI would not comment. Olivarez signed a contract with Premier five months after the Costa Rica trip involving the former Bexar County sheriff. Gonzalez signed a contract in September 2004. Premier's principals, Patrick and Michael LeBlanc, also own LCS Correctional Services, which is building a private prison to house federal inmates near Robstown. A receptionist at Premier referred all questions to the company's chief executive officer, Chris Burch, who did not respond. An attorney for the company, Tonya Webber of Corpus Christi, said her clients have not been commenting because of the open investigation in Bexar County. She said she would check with her clients for comment on the local contracts but did not respond after that. Kaelin and Mata both cited performance issues with Premier as reasons for terminating the contract. Mata said the Bexar investigation also played a part. "What I'm trying to do is just protect this county," Mata said. "I'm not trying to pass any judgment if something was done wrong." Kaelin said his decision was based solely on Premier's performance. He met with Premier officials about complaints before ending the agreement, according to correspondence the Caller-Times obtained under the Texas Public Information Act. Kaelin and Premier also tangled over payments. A new contract, with Keefe Supply, also is potentially more lucrative for the county. The Premier contract gave the county $130,000 or 31 percent of net sales, whichever was greater. The new contract gives a minimum of 39 percent with the possibility of 41 percent after the first year. Texas law gives sheriffs sole discretion over commissary contracts. Commissaries supply snacks, such as chips, candy bars and soda, as well as certain toiletries, for inmates. Friends and family put money in an inmate's account to spend on commissary items. A county's proceeds must be used for commissary staff, social needs of inmates (such as education or counseling), libraries, writing materials, clothing, hygiene items or other programs that contribute to inmates' well-being, according to state law. Kaelin said he uses commissary profits to buy newspaper subscriptions, televisions and uniforms. Kaelin said inmates frequently complained about Premier's service. Under that system, inmates would order items to be packed into bags, shipped from San Antonio and handed out the next day. Kaelin said his office received numerous complaints about items being damaged or wrong. Keefe stores items at the Nueces County Jail McKenzie Annex and brings items around on a cart twice a week so inmates can choose and receive items immediately, Kaelin said. Premier's accounting system also allowed inmates to buy on credit, and as a result some inmates would leave custody owing money to Nueces County, Kaelin said. Keefe's system charges inmates' accounts directly by scanning a bracelet inmates wear. An inmate can't buy items unless there is enough money in the account.

September 25, 2007 San Antonio Express-News
The longtime campaign manager and friend of resigned Bexar County Sheriff Ralph Lopez pleaded guilty to one felony count of theft Tuesday that could bring him up to a decade in prison and a $10,000 fine. John Reynolds' plea stemmed from his demands that Premier Management Enterprises give charitable donations, campaign contributions and other money "so you can take care of us," in exchange for contracts to operate the jail and jail annex commissaries, which were under the control of Lopez. According to the plea deal, Reynolds ended up diverting the Premier money — $32,000 — for his personal use. 'You're killing me' -- Premier's Texas point man at one time was Ian Williamson, who no longer works for the company. Now a cooperating witness, Williamson told Bexar County investigators that Reynolds "asked for certain things" in exchange for awarding Premier the commissary business. Specifically, Reynolds told Premier to pay the equivalent of 1 percent of commissary sales to Lopez's campaign fund and give three payments of $7,500 each that Reynolds said were donations to the Optimists, when, in fact, the money went into his own bank accounts. Williamson testified that he called Reynolds this past spring, as the investigation was heating up, and asked him for receipts for the three $7,500 donations. "Williamson said there was dead silence until John Reynolds stated, 'You're killing me; you're killing me,' at which time Ian Williamson claimed it was then that he realized that John Reynolds had never delivered the donations," according to court documents. At one point, Williamson stated, Reynolds demanded a consulting fee of $5,014. When Williamson asked why he shouldn't write a check for a round $5,000, he said Reynolds replied: "that $5,000 looked too funny." Other filings by the district attorney's office have shown checks made out to Reynolds' accounts and signed by Michael LeBlanc, who is an owner of Premier along with his brother Patrick, and by Chris Burch, who replaced Williamson as Premier's CEO. Burch said in a recent interview that he believed Reynolds' representations that the checks were for legitimate charities. Premier's lawyers have denied any wrongdoing. After the scandal broke, Premier mutually agreed with the Sheriff's Office to prematurely end its Bexar County commissary contracts. Recently, Lopez pleaded no contest to taking a gift from Premier — an all-expense paid trip to Costa Rica for golf and fishing. He was forced to resign and fined $10,000; his interim replacement, Roland Tafolla, was sworn in last week. Lopez claims he was ignorant of how Reynolds was running his campaign finances. By pleading guilty to third-degree theft, Reynolds will be going to prison, First Assistant District Attorney Cliff Herberg said. Under the parole rules, the 10-year sentence would make him eligible for early release in 2.5 years. That is much less than the potential sentence he could have faced had he been indicted. District Attorney Susan Reed's office had threatened to indict Reynolds as a repeat offender because of Reynolds' previous conviction for falsifying a furniture damage claim while he was in the military. That would have made Reynolds' minimum sentence 15 years, the Express-News confirmed. Reynolds entered his plea before 399th District Judge Juanita Vasquez-Gardner on Tuesday afternoon and was released on a $10,000 bond. As part of his plea, Reynolds will have to tell all he knows to federal authorities before his Jan. 4 sentencing as part of an FBI investigation that may — or may not — continue for some time. "The investigation is very fluid at the moment and to comment on the direction just wouldn't be prudent right now," said Special Agent Erik Vasys, a spokesman for the San Antonio-based FBI office. Goals met -- Reynolds' plea effectively brings to a close Reed's public corruption investigation of the lucrative jail commissary contracts, granted in 2005 and 2006 by the board of the Benevolent Fund that was controlled by Lopez and chaired by Reynolds. "Our goal was to go after the public officials that we believe engaged in wrongdoing," Herberg said. "And with John Reynolds' and the sheriff's plea, we believe we've accomplished our goal." Also caught in the investigation was the ex-sheriff's wife, Nancy Lopez, who kept her own close ties to Reynolds and whose signatures were found on thousands of dollars worth of campaign checks that Reynolds allegedly deposited into his private accounts. She was given immunity from state prosecution. Reynolds will be required to talk with federal investigators about "all transactions. This includes but is not limited to, all of his experiences, whether illegal or not, with the Bexar County Sheriff's Office, the BCSO Benevolent Fund, Michael LeBlanc, Patrick LeBlanc, Premier Management Enterprises, LCS, Louisiana Corrections Systems, and affiliated persons and entities," states a letter from Reed to Reynolds' lawyer, outlining the plea deal. Louisiana-based Premier and the prison-building company called LCS Corrections Inc., which is also owned in part by Michael and Patrick LeBlanc, operate in five South Texas counties, Louisiana and Alabama. Lopez and Reynolds weren't the only one to benefit from their ties to Premier. The Express-News has reported that Premier also gave a contract for temporary staffing to John E. Curran III, who, like Reynolds, is a friend of Lopez's and a member of the Bexar County Benevolent Fund board. Premier gave Curran the staffing business after he'd voted to give Premier an initial commissary contract. He later recused himself from further votes about Premier. In summer 2006, Reynolds, in a desperate attempt to cover up the real reason he'd taken money from Premier, handed out envelopes full of cash to his friends, purportedly college scholarships for their children. District attorney investigators said Reynolds concocted the Optimists scholarships as a disguise. One of the students whose parent received the $7,500 told investigators "he did not know the name of the organization that awarded him the scholarship money, he didn't know about an organization named Optimist, nor does he know what the word 'optimist' means." In fact, Reynolds' affiliation with the Optimists had ended years earlier, investigators found.

September 8, 2007 The Advocate
This week’s conviction of a San Antonio area sheriff for his involvement in a bribery and money laundering scheme has ties to a Lafayette company owned by a candidate for the state House of Representatives. Pat LeBlanc and his brother, Michael, own Premier Management Enterprise. Bexar County prosecutors say now-resigned Sheriff Ralph Lopez and his long-time campaign manager John Reynolds received money and a golf and fishing trip to Costa Rica in exchange for awarding Premier Management the contract to run the county jail’s commissary. LeBlanc, a Republican, qualified Thursday to run for the District 43 seat being vacated by Ernie Alexander, R-Lafayette. LeBlanc said Friday that he is cooperating with investigators and as such cannot comment on the specifics of the case. But LeBlanc said he is confident in his and his company’s integrity. “We haven’t done anything wrong,” LeBlanc said. “We’re caught up in something that’s a lot bigger than us.” Lopez and his wife, Nancy, pleaded no contest Monday to charges of receiving an improper gift, failing to file the proper disclosures, and tampering with a government record. According to the couple’s plea deal, they will be required to cooperate with both local, state and federal authorities in the ongoing investigation. Affidavits attached to search warrants in the case allege that in April 2005, Reynolds began lobbying the sheriff’s office Benevolent Fund board — which at the time ran the commissary operations — in an attempt to have the board award the commissary contract for the jail annex to Premier Management on a trial basis. Reynolds sat on the board at the time. In June 2005, a board member intended to present the board an analysis that showed there would be a decrease in profits if the contract were agreed to, according to the affidavit. Lopez, the board chairman and the skeptical board member sent a letter to Premier Management in July 2005 telling the company the board would not be awarding it the contract, the affidavit says. Soon thereafter, the chairman resigned from the board and Reynolds took over as chairman. Reynolds then called a special meeting on a date when he knew two objecting board members would be out of town; and at that meeting, Reynolds gave Premier Management the contract, according to the affidavit. Twelve days later, Lopez and Reynolds attended an all-expense paid golf and fishing trip to Costa Rica, hosted by Premier Management, according to the affidavit. A person investigators believe to be an Alabama state senator also attended. In October 2005, the contract was formally signed. One month later, Premier Management gave a $5,000 check to “Systems Analysts,” which prosecutors say was a shell business controlled by Reynolds. In January 2006, Premier Management gave $7,500 to the “Optimist Club Scholarship Fund,” which prosecutors say is a sham nonprofit controlled by Reynolds. Another $7,500 check to Optimist followed on May 11, 2006, according to the affidavit. Two weeks later, despite an analysis by the board’s accountant that showed the commissary profits had decreased, the board voted to extend the contract to the entire jail, not just the annex operations, the affidavit says. In total, prosecutors allege, Premier Management or Michael LeBlanc gave Reynolds’ organizations more than $32,000, which Reynolds then turned into cash and deposited into his personal bank account. Pat LeBlanc said the contracts his company signs with state and federal officials require a great deal of disclosure, including the requirement that his company’s books be open for review at a moment’s notice by those agencies. “I’m proud to say I have passed muster,” LeBlanc said. “There’s probably no candidate in Louisiana that gets more scrutiny.” LeBlanc said he and his brother started the commissary business as a satellite business to serve their own prisons, before deciding to branch off to serve other facilities. It’s not a large part of the overall business, LeBlanc said. “I would never ever risk my integrity over selling candy bars and potato chips,” LeBlanc said. LeBlanc said that most voters see the issue as he sees it, as a “smear campaign.” He said most Lafayette media outlets were tipped off on the San Antonio prosecutions within a two-and-a-half hour period. “It’s politics as usual,” LeBlanc said. “It’s the nature of the game. It’s a blood sport. People will use every little piece of leverage they can.”

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

September 1, 2007 San Antonio Express-News
With an indictment hanging over his head, Sheriff Ralph Lopez resigned Friday in a deal struck with prosecutors that guarantees him no jail time in exchange for a no contest plea and $10,000 fine, a source familiar with the negotiations told the San Antonio Express-News. Lopez's brief resignation letter marked the end of his 15-year reign as Bexar County sheriff. The letter was faxed to District Attorney Susan Reed at 5:36 p.m., following what the Express-News confirmed were ongoing negotiations about resolving his criminal case. Lopez faces misdemeanor charges stemming from an investigation into a jail commissary contract awarded to a Louisiana private jail services company called Premier Management Enterprises. "I, Rafael Lopez, hereby resign my position as Sheriff of Bexar County, Texas, effective at 5:00 p.m. on August 31, 2007," Lopez's resignation letter said. Reed turned the resignation letter over to Commissioners Court, whose members plan to meet Tuesday to begin choosing a successor. A new sheriff could be named by Sept. 19. The resignation was the product of a deal Lopez and his attorneys struck with Reed's office, a source familiar with the agreement confirmed. Under the undisclosed terms, Lopez agreed to plead no contest to all three misdemeanors, and to pay a $10,000 fine. A review by the Express-News of the court's records Friday showed no plea agreement was filed, and judges who could have formalized the deal had left the building by the time Lopez's resignation was made public. Sources familiar with the negotiations, however, confirmed the sheriff will formalize the proposed deal in front of a judge, possibly as early as next week. Reed declined to comment. So did Lopez's lawyer, Mike McCrum: "I cannot comment about anything regarding his pending case," he said. After formally resigning, Lopez retreated to the privacy of his Leon Valley home, which raided last week by investigators, and did not answer calls from the media. Through other officials, he requested to be left alone. County Commissioner Paul Elizondo said Lopez may issue a public statement in the coming days. The indictments against Lopez, issued just as the statute of limitations was about to expire, are part of a broader ongoing investigation into just how Premier Management Enterprises came to win the jail commissary contract. Lopez faces three misdemeanor counts: accepting a gift, accepting an "honorarium," and failing to disclose the gift and honorarium in his finance reports to the county. The alleged gifts were in the form of a golfing and fishing trip to Costa Rica in August 2005, at a time when Premier's contract was in jeopardy. Key questions remain unanswered. Chief among them is whether Lopez or his wife, Nancy Lopez, still might be subject to charges in the public corruption investigation. She has been named as a suspect in bribery, money laundering and campaign finance law violations. Also unknown is whether Lopez and his wife will become cooperating witnesses against others who have been named as suspects or who have been called before the grand jury. The grand jury's term was extended until late September. "The sheriff clearly wants to spend more time with his family, and he's confident that his department is being left in capable hands," said McCrum, who declined to comment on Nancy Lopez's status or any possible deal involving Lopez himself. "He's proud of the Bexar County Sheriff's Office and that it is in capable hands. Because of a lot of different factors, he's decided to resign to spend more time with his family." County officials called a news conference late Friday afternoon to announce the resignation. Bexar County Judge Nelson Wolff described a calm, professional interaction with the sheriff during which Lopez disclosed his intention to resign. Wolff said he didn't ask Lopez any questions. "He did say he's going to take some time with his family and wanted some privacy," Wolff said, later adding: "The last two or three weeks have obviously been difficult. I think at least I feel relieved in the sense that it's come to a conclusion, and we now know a timeline in which we will take action. It's never good when any elected official has legal problems." Elizondo and Commissioner Tommy Adkisson also expressed regret. "It is sad for a person who came in with great aplomb and reception ... to come to this juncture," Adkisson said. "I had a very good relationship with the sheriff, and I always really respected him," Elizondo said. "He's had an outstanding career in law enforcement and he's done a lot to modernize and upgrade the Sheriff's Office during his career. It's sad that it comes to this juncture." Wolff said he had no successor in mind for Lopez. Sheriff's Deputy Al Damiani, president of the Bexar County Sheriffs Deputy Law Enforcement Officer's Organization, long considered a Lopez ally, expressed dismay over the resignation. The union, known as LEO, has had its records subpoenaed, along with some of its top members, and long has retained longtime Lopez campaign manager John Reynolds as a political consultant. The investigation into the jail commissary contract also has encompassed Reynolds, who served on the nonprofit board. "If this hadn't have come up, they would have been naming buildings after Ralph Lopez," Damiani said. "He took our organization from the dark ages to a situation where we're a viable modern law enforcement organization." Damiani, who only recently became LEO's president, said he has ordered a full 10-year audit of the organization's books that will focus on any dealings involving Reynolds. He also urged Commissioner's Court to appoint an interim sheriff who knows the department well and isn't currently a declared candidate for the office. He said the office has been in "absolute turmoil." "We want someone who can stabilize things and get us back to the business of serving the public," Damiani said. Premier took over management of the jail food commissary contract at the urging of Lopez, who used close associates on a nonprofit corporate board overseeing the jail commissary to push the contract through when a majority of other board members were prepared to vote it down. Through their attorneys, Ralph and Nancy Lopez and Reynolds have denied any wrongdoing.

August 15, 2007 San Antonio Express-News
Bexar County Sheriff Ralph Lopez was indicted Thursday on three misdemeanor criminal charges related to benefits he allegedly took from a jail contractor, but the four-term officeholder avoided the indignity of getting booked into his own jail. The indictments accused Lopez of accepting and failing to report a gift and an "honorarium" — both involving the same 2005 all-expenses paid golfing/fishing trip to Costa Rica — from a company he helped get the contract to run his jail's food commissaries. In particular, the indictments allege that he solicited and accepted food, lodging, transportation and entertainment, including golfing and fishing, from two officials of Louisiana-based Premier Management Enterprises, which now runs the commissaries. One indictment labels the trip as a gift to a public servant; the other an "honorarium," or informal payment, that "was in consideration for services that the defendant would not have been requested to provide but for defendant's official position and duties." The third charges that he failed to report the gift on his personal financial disclosure form. Lopez remains in office, as allowed by law for an official under indictment, but if found guilty, Lopez would be automatically disqualified for service and could end up behind bars. Despite warrants issued for his arrest Thursday, Lopez never had to join his prisoners. After reporting to a judge, he was allowed to remain free on a personal recognizance bond. The charges are the first to surface as part of a wider-ranging public corruption probe that District Attorney Susan Reed said focuses on the relationship between Premier, Lopez, his longtime campaign manager John Reynolds, members of a nonprofit board the sheriff set up and appointed to run the jail commissaries, and others. Attorneys for Premier did not respond to requests for comment Thursday. After testifying under subpoena for 45 minutes before the grand jury Thursday morning, Lopez said, "I've done nothing wrong." A Democrat who recently announced he would run for re-election next year, Lopez called the 18-month investigation by Republican Reed "a political witch hunt." Jason Davis, one of Lopez's attorneys, said, "We are looking forward to our day in court." In previous interviews, Lopez has acknowledged accepting the trip to Costa Rica for an undisclosed business purpose, a kind of favor to friends, but has insisted it had no bearing on his decision to help Premier take over the jail commissaries. He maintains he has never received any form of payment from Premier for his help. Reed characterized the indictment of Lopez as merely a stepping-stone in an investigation that is far from over, involving the FBI and Texas Rangers. She said the misdemeanor indictments against Lopez were presented Thursday only because the legal time limit for filing such charges would have ended on Monday. Reed dismissed the sheriff's accusation that the investigation was political, noting that it began long before Lopez declared he would run for re-election. "That is a fairly typical response from any politician who has been indicted. In fact, I can't remember anyone not claiming that," she said. "The sheriff has run for office before and I have kept my distance. I didn't even support the candidates who were running. I made no public endorsements. I felt I needed to work with him. He's the sheriff." The charges against Lopez fall short of more penalty-heavy public corruption or bribery, which challenge prosecutors to present evidence that meets a more stringent standard. Instead, the two charges characterizing the trip as a payment or benefit, if proved, each carry up to a year in prison, a $4,000 fine, or both. A third charge accusing Lopez of failing to report it as required on financial disclosure statements carries a penalty of up to 180 days in jail and a $2,000 fine. Jail business -- The sheriff's Costa Rica trip came at a time when Premier's prospects of getting the jail business was in jeopardy, and he wasn't the only one who benefited from a relationship with the company. Until the fall of 2005, the county's two jail commissaries were being run and managed directly by the sheriff's office through the nonprofit Benevolent Fund. By most accounts, the commissaries were run efficiently and had some $2 million a year in revenue. But starting earlier in 2005, the sheriff began pushing hard for his appointed board members to hand over management to Premier, on grounds that a private company could run the commissaries more professionally. Premier's principals were brothers Michael LeBlanc and Patrick LeBlanc, as well as CEO Ian Williamson. But some of Lopez's own staff and appointed Benevolent Fund board members strongly objected to the change. A background check turned up information about Premier that was generally critical of the company and cited specific examples where another company run by the LeBlancs, a private prison firm, had faced legal challenges to their operations. A majority of board members were prepared to vote against the project. Even Lopez momentarily withdrew his support, but he was soon pushing for it again. A key meeting that broke the logjam occurred in August 2005, when Reynolds became chairman of the board and pushed the Premier contract forward, minutes show. In a recent court filing seeking to force Reynolds to give up handwriting samples, the district attorney's office accused him of accepting more than $27,000 in unreported "donations" to "shell" charities and "consulting" fees from Premier during the time that Reynolds was also helping the company win the jail commissary business as a sheriff-appointed member of the Benevolent Fund board. He is a target of the investigation, subpoenaed at least three times by the grand jury. Neither Reynolds nor his attorney has returned phone calls. He has invoked the Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination all three times. It was also later that month, from Aug. 20-23, that Lopez accompanied Michael LeBlanc and Ian Williamson to Costa Rica, according to the sheriff's calendar and the indictments. Investigators have interviewed a number of other current and former Benevolent Fund board members. Among them is John E. Curran III, a longtime political and business associate of both the sheriff and Reynolds. The Express-News reported July 29 that Curran runs a temporary worker company that got a contract to staff Premier's commissary operations after he helped the Louisiana company overcome Benevolent Fund board opposition to gain a footing at the jail during the summer of 2005. Curran said he fully disclosed his contract, worth an estimated $15,000 annually, to the sheriff and fellow board members and abstained from further voting as a board member on Premier business.

August 11, 2007 The Independent
A Lafayette company headed by brothers Michael and Patrick Leblanc has turned up in the middle of a public corruption investigation centered on the Bexar County Sheriff’s Office in west Texas. Sheriff Ralph Lopez was recently indicted on three misdemeanor charges related to unreported benefits he received from the Leblancs’ company, Premier Management Enterprise. Lopez took an all-expenses-paid golfing/fishing trip to Costa Rica with the Leblancs, at a time when Premier was vying for a lucrative contract to run the county jail’s commissary stores. Court filings also show that one of the sheriff’s close associates, John Reynolds, appears to have laundered money from Premier into his own personal bank account, through a fraudulent charity scholarship organization named Optimists. “We were duped,” says Pat Leblanc. “I really don’t know the whole length and breadth of the story, but I can tell you this: If somebody played funny with our money, I want to prosecute them to the end of the world.” Leblanc, who is a candidate for District 43 state representative, also distanced himself from the company, which he says is primarily run by his brother and another associate, Ian Williamson. Michael Leblanc says he is working closely with investigators and anticipates the entire issue should soon be resolved. “Unfortunately, we didn’t know who this guy was,” he says, referring to Reynolds. “Shame on us.” While it appears Premier is unlikely to face any charges from the investigation, the circumstances surrounding its contract with the Bexar County jail have certainly created a perception of quid pro quo. The district attorney has labeled Lopez’s golf trip as an honorarium that “was in consideration for services that the defendant would not have been requested to provide but for defendant’s official position and duties.” Lopez began pushing to farm out the county jail’s commissaries to Premier in 2005. Initially the idea met resistance from the board of the “Benevolent Fund” — a nonprofit Lopez had set up to manage the commissaries several years ago. One board member, Amadeo Ortiz — who now is running against Lopez for sheriff — commissioned a background report that was critical of Premier and another Leblanc company. After Ortiz resigned, the issue came up again. The board approved moving ahead with a six-month trial contract with Premier in August 2005. The vote came at a special meeting held while two board members were out of town. Reynolds was elected chairman of the board at the same meeting. A few weeks after that meeting, the Leblancs took both Lopez and Reynolds on the trip to Costa Rica. Sheriff Lopez has stated the trip, which John Reynolds also attended, was a private conference unrelated to any county business. Pat Leblanc says the conference addressed security issues related to one of the Leblancs’ private prisons in Alabama. In addition to Premier, the Leblancs own LCS Prisons, the fifth largest prison system in the U.S. with facilities across the Gulf Coast region. “In our jail business, we hold conferences with various law enforcement agencies to discuss security and issues having to do with operation. That was the basis of the trip,” says Pat Leblanc. He adds the business also “routinely entertains clients. We take them fishing and we take them golfing,” he says. “That’s business culture; everybody in the business world does that. All the service companies here do it.” Premier signed its six-month contract with the Benevolent Fund’s board in October 2005, and in the months following made a total of $27,500 in contributions to charities now known to be controlled by Reynolds. The district attorney’s office has bank records showing that Reynolds transferred the funds into his personal account. Reynolds is yet to be called before a grand jury. For his part, Sheriff Lopez, a Democrat, has maintained that he is the victim of a “political witch hunt” by the Republican district attorney. Premier’s Texas-based attorney, Tonya Webber, issued the following statement on behalf of her clients: “Neither PME nor any of its employees or principals has engaged in any misconduct. While both the company and the Leblancs typically make charitable and political contributions they had every reason to believe that any such charities were legitimate and that all contributions or benefits were reported by the recipients as required by law.” Pat Leblanc says that in hindsight, his company was too trusting of the Brexar County officials. “We’re out of towners,” he says. “We’re not from that area. We went in, we sold our service; they wanted us to do the commissary service. We operate a good, clean business and to think that we might have been taken advantage of in that regard just turns my stomach.”

July 29, 2007 San Antonio News-Express
In the summer of 2005, a determined effort by Bexar County Sheriff Ralph Lopez to privatize the county jail commissary stores — which generated some $2 million a year in gross sales — was on the verge of foundering. In Texas, elected sheriffs enjoy wide leeway and independence in managing and operating county jails, including the jail commissary, where inmates can purchase everything from snacks to toiletries. But Lopez had met strong resistance from several board members of a nonprofit "Benevolent Fund" corporation that he had established several years earlier to run the commissaries. They saw no good reason to contract out the operation to a private vendor of Lopez's choice, Premier Management Enterprises, or any other business. The deal seemed all but dead when Premier's fortunes took an abrupt turn for the better. Some board members, including the chairman who staunchly opposed the deal, resigned. The new leaders of the board along with a new member, all allies of Lopez, would push the Premier contract through the rough patch. Within weeks of the contract approval by the sheriff's Benevolent Fund board in August 2005, Lopez, an avid golfer known to travel the country playing at elite resorts, was visiting Costa Rica, where he spent time on the greens with Premier officials at the expense of Premier's principal owners, Patrick and Michael LeBlanc. Later, less than a month after the contract was officially inked, board Chairman John Reynolds was allegedly depositing the first of four checks totaling $27,500 from Premier into accounts named for charities that were "shells" and "fronts," according to court documents filed by a district attorney investigator. And within four months, board Vice Chairman John E. Curran III was preparing to cut his own financial side deal with Premier. Curran's temporary worker company, PersoNet, now provides the very commissary employees that Premier uses to carry out the contract Curran helped along as vice chairman. In a recent interview, Curran said his own ongoing business with Premier, based in Louisiana, to supply the jail commissaries with about a dozen temporary workers is worth between $12,000 and $15,000 a year to him. Curran said he did nothing criminally or ethically wrong, and that he verbally disclosed the relationship with Premier to the sheriff and abstained on relevant votes once his company had Premier's business in April 2006. "I had the sheriff's permission prior to doing any business with Premier, and I asked the board's permission. Both granted it," Curran said. "I wanted to be sure there was no conflict of interest. I did not want anyone to find out in the newspaper, or any other way, that one of my clients was Premier." The sheriff did not reply to several telephone messages last week. Neither Reynolds nor his attorney returned messages requesting comment for this article. Even if no laws were broken, disclosures about Premier's generosity toward elected and appointed officials who have helped it win lucrative contracts have left — at the least — a public perception of wrongdoing in how the sheriff and his allies conduct business. "Ugh," Bexar County Judge Nelson Wolff groaned when told of Premier's arrangement with Curran's company. "This thing's worse than it already has been. This is not good at all. Nothing about it looks good. Whether you've violated a criminal act or an ethics issue, or neither, it's still not appropriate behavior. It looks bad." District Attorney Susan Reed's public corruption investigators, joined by the FBI and the Texas Rangers, are conducting interviews and have sought grand jury subpoenas regarding Reynolds. On several occasions, he's invoked his Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination in response to subpoenas, according to court documents. First Assistant District Attorney Cliff Herberg said his office would not discuss the investigation. Curran acknowledged that investigators have questioned him about PersoNet's relationship with Premier. Asked if he had ever shared any of the Premier revenue with Reynolds or anyone else, Curran replied: "I'm not sharing my revenue with anyone but my kids. My staff is not donating to anybody. There's just nothing there." One of Premier's attorneys, Tonya Webber of Corpus Christi, wrote in an e-mail reply, in part, that: "Temp-to-hire services are a prudent business practice. This was an arms-length transaction documented in writing with an experienced temp-to-hire company." Webber said she wasn't at liberty to respond to specific e-mailed questions, such as why Premier chose a Benevolent Fund board member's company, rather than more than a dozen other area licensed temp worker companies. Created in 2002 by Lopez, the Benevolent Fund appears to be the only one that exists in the state for the purpose of running a jail commissary. Sheriffs in other counties have contracted the job directly with private companies in line with state laws that allow them to do so without competitive bidding. Because of the Benevolent Fund's unique existence and function, said Lauri Saathoff, a spokeswoman for the Texas attorney general's office, the question of how the state's conflict of interest law might apply has never come up. "We don't have any previous attorney general's opinions for a board like this," Saathoff said in response to an Express-News request. Three-way alliance -- Curran's ties to the sheriff and Reynolds date to the late 1990s when Curran worked as a senior analyst in the Bexar County Personnel Division. Close alliances were built among the three over the years, each assuming positions of potential benefit to the others. Lopez and Reynolds have known each other for at least 15 years; Lopez has hired Reynolds as his campaign manager for years and once made Reynolds his chief of staff. Curran began serving on various boards alongside Reynolds, doing business with a deputies' union considered aligned with Lopez, and working on the sheriff's campaigns that Reynolds managed. While Reynolds was chairman of the West San Antonio Chamber of Commerce, which he helped found, Curran was treasurer. Reynolds also nominated Curran in 2004 for appointment to the Alamo Workforce Development board, one of 28 such boards across the state that spend Texas Workforce Commission funds to help the unemployed find work. Curran and Reynolds also share a connection through the Bexar County Sheriff's Deputies Law Enforcement Organization's union. The fact that LEO routinely hires Reynolds as its paid lobbyist has led to the perception among some deputies that Lopez wields some influence over the organization. LEO also has given consulting contracts to Curran to conduct salary surveys the union uses to justify pay raise requests, he said. And Lopez's wife, Nancy, served at one time with Reynolds on a now-defunct nonprofit fundraising arm of LEO. Curran, for his part, said he has donated PersoNet's "time and energy" to man phone banks soliciting past Lopez election campaign contributors and will again for the sheriff's 2008 re-election campaign. When Lopez founded the Benevolent Fund, Curran was among the first whom the sheriff asked to serve on it. The alliance between Curran, Reynolds and the sheriff would come into play at a critical moment during the summer of 2005, in ways that would yield fruit for more than just Premier. Opposition to proposed contract -- Starting in early 2005, when commissary revenues were approaching record highs of $2 million under Benevolent Fund board management, Lopez began pushing for Premier to run the jail annex commissary, the smaller of two, on a six-month trial basis. If that worked out, the contract would be expanded to the main jail commissary. Rather than contract out the commissary at first, Lopez had opted to set up a Benevolent Fund with a seven-member board to do the job in-house. He has authority to nominate and appoint members. Lopez said last month that he later wanted to switch to Premier because the commissary operations were outgrowing the limited expertise of board members and it was time for professional management. "None of us had experience," Lopez said. "Running a jail is not just putting guys in jail. It's detention ministries; it's banking and other services. It's all comprehensive." Some of the sheriff's subordinates on the board immediately opposed the change. But the endeavor did not run into serious trouble until the eve of a scheduled board vote on the pilot contract June 22, 2005. The chairman at the time, Deputy Chief Amadeo Ortiz, released the results of a background investigation of Premier that he had quietly commissioned from the Houston law firm McFall, Sherwood & Breitbeil. The report was generally critical of Premier and cited specific examples where another company in which the LeBlancs also were shareholders, LCS Corrections Services Inc., had faced legal challenges to their operations. The background report — and a financial analysis projecting an initial revenue loss of $103,790 if Premier took over — raised sufficient concern for Reynolds to table the Premier contract that day, according to meeting minutes and two former board members. Ortiz, who resigned from the board shortly after that meeting and is running for sheriff against Lopez, said he believes he knows why. "It would have failed a vote at that time," said Ortiz, guessing the board would have voted 4-2 against Premier. "My fellow board members didn't like the contract because there was nothing wrong with the way the commissary was being run." Even the sheriff momentarily wavered in his support for Premier because of the background report. But Lopez was soon pushing again. And in the sheriff's corner, Ortiz and another board member said, were the only two who had supported the proposal all along and who would go on to break the stalemate: Curran and Reynolds, "the two Johns," as Ortiz and other board members sometimes referred to them. Doing 'business with friends' -- On Aug. 9, 2005, Reynolds and Curran called a special meeting. Ortiz had by then resigned, and the two other board members were out of town, at least one of whom was firmly opposed. Reynolds and Curran were joined by Dr. Bert Cecconi, a 71-year-old dentist and occasional candidate for local political office who had recently been added to the board. Only weeks earlier Reynolds has asked him to join the board as a favor to the sheriff, Cecconi recalled in an interview last week. He said he'd gotten to know Reynolds and Lopez over the years at Saturday morning community breakfast meetings downtown. The three, enough for a quorum, elected Reynolds the new board chairman and Curran the new vice chairman. Lopez put in a brief but rare appearance at the meeting. Then, according to meeting minutes, the trio "approved and unanimously recommends implementation immediately" of the Premier annex commissary tryout program. Curran acknowledged the purpose of that Aug. 9 special meeting. "That meeting was called to help get things going forward," he said. "We were just trying to coordinate it to get things up and going." Cecconi, who described himself as a "passive member" of the board, said he served for just four meetings, dropping off shortly after signing the Premier contract. Cecconi was given to believe the Premier deal was a routine matter requiring little scrutiny. "To me, I thought it was like a machine with Cokes coming out of it or something. I didn't know it was a major deal," Cecconi said last week about transferring the $2 million a year jail commissary operations to Premier. "I probably just said, 'OK.' I didn't give it much thought, for better or for worse." Later that month, from Aug. 20-23, the sheriff, who frequently played golf with Premier's owners, traveled to Costa Rica, his office calendar shows. Lopez recalled last month that the LeBlancs paid all of his expenses to Costa Rica for an undisclosed business trip, unrelated to county affairs, that included tee time. Lopez still refuses to fully disclose the business purpose of the trip, only that it involved a favor to his Premier friends, a foreign ambassador and a senator, neither of whom he would name in deference to a confidentiality agreement he said he struck with all involved. He also said he was not paid. "The LeBlanc people paid for the Costa Rica trip," the sheriff said. "I was over there carrying my resume with me for credibility for part of the trip." From August on, Lopez and Premier would encounter no more dissent. After several resignations, the board, under the guidance of Chairman Reynolds and Vice Chairman Curran, would reconstitute itself with new members who would continue clearing the path for Premier's pilot six-month contract. On Oct. 19, 2005, Cecconi, as board secretary, signed the contract with Premier for the pilot program, a copy of the agreement shows. A short time later, Cecconi dropped off the board. He told the Express-News his dental practice had gotten too busy. About three weeks after the contract was signed, Premier wrote a $5,014 check for "consulting" to Systems Analysts Inc., described as Reynolds' "alter ego," according to allegations by district attorney investigators. Three more Premier checks, totaling another $22,500, to Reynolds-controlled accounts would follow, according to court filings. Webber, Premier's attorney, said last month when asked about the checks that there is no evidence of Premier being connected to any alleged wrongdoing. Curran's firm gets hired Once Premier had its signed the pilot contract, Curran said a company official asked him for advice about staffing the limited operation. Premier was going to need only four of its own workers. Curran said he offered to let Premier conduct interviews in the offices of PersoNet, free of charge, as a favor. As vice chairman, Curran continued to consider and discuss Premier's status until about February 2006, by which time the tryout period was more than half over, and it was clear to board members that Premier would secure a five-year contract to run both jail commissaries. Curran confirmed that was about when Premier first broached the topic of his company getting paid to provide commissary workers for the anticipated expansion. He said he tried to refer the business elsewhere but that the company insisted on PersoNet. "They said, 'We need employees,'" Curran recalled. "I recommended a couple of different avenues for them because I am in the business, and they chose not to follow those, so ..." While there are a dozen licensed temporary staffing companies in the greater San Antonio area, Curran said Premier preferred to do business with him because "I guess it's all networking. You like to do business with friends." During the February 2006 board meeting, minutes show, Reynolds disclosed Curran's pending business relationship with Premier. The sheriff, Reynolds announced, had requested that Curran's company "bid" on work to supply Premier with workers. Curran's fellow board members then approved a motion that he recuse himself "from voting on matters that may create a conflict of interest with the (Benevolent) Fund's activities," according to the minutes. When the time came for the Benevolent Fund to extend the contract in April 2006, Curran abstained. PersoNet had penned its deal with Premier. Once Premier had all the commissary business, the Benevolent Fund no longer needed to employ the 13 commissary workers. Some were laid off; others were encouraged to reapply to Premier for their old jobs, at substantially lower pay and with no benefits, according to two former employees. PersoNet handled the initial reapplication process, bringing some of the old commissary employees into PersoNet's fold as temporary workers. It also became the equivalent of Premier's human resources department, outsourced. Curran said he hopes his company grows with Premier, which has contracts elsewhere in South Texas. "We want them to do well, both as a board member and as a client," Curran said. "Their success — just like all my other clients' success is — if I can help them be more successful, then I'm successful. "That's business."

Bexar County Secure Juvenile Correctional Treatment Center
Bexar County, Texas
Children’s Comprehensive Services/CCS

October, 1998
On October 21, three male inmates kicked open a rear gate and escaped. Less than a week later, another inmate escaped through an unlocked front gate. (San Antonio Express-News, November 11, 1998)

Big Spring Complex
Big Spring, Texas
GEO Group (bought Cornell
)
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.

September 14, 2008 Permian Basin 360
Questions remain unanswered concerning Friday night's prison riot in Big Spring. Fires reportedly broke out in several buildings at the Big Spring Correctional Center's FlightLine unit. Ambulances were seen leaving the scene. Cornell Companies currently operates the site. "All we do is establish a perimeter. That's all we do in these instances. They handle all the security inside the fence," said Sgt. Tony Everett of the Big Spring Police Department. The unit is specifically for prisoners who commit immigration violations. At this time, Cornell Companies has yet to respond to our calls.

September 13, 2008 NewsWest 9
Questions still remain unanswered after a prisoner fire and riot on Friday night. Facility officials are being very cautious of what information is being disclosed. Big Spring authorities rushed to the scene of a riot and fire from the Flightline Correctional Center near the Big Spring airport. The facility takes prisoners from the U.S. Immigration and Naturalization Services, but since it is a privately owned facility the plan for police was to secure a perimeter. "The only reason we are here, our only purpose is if spills outside of the fenced facility," Sergeant Tony Everett, with the Big Spring Police Department, said. In total, about 15 police officers stayed outside managing traffic while Big Spring firefighters went inside. "My understating is that may be one or two buildings were on fire," Everett said. Several ambulances left the scene towards Scenic Mountain Medical Center where family members were advised not to disclose any information. But the mother of one of the injured employee was thankful to hear her son was doing better. "I feel a whole lot better, I feel relieved that he is O.K. Like I said earlier, I just left it in the hands of God and he is the one who pulled me through," Inez Heins, Mother of a facility Employee, said. NewsWest 9 also received a couple of calls from relatives who say that seven facility staff were injured and were treated for minor injuries. According to officials from the correctional center the riot never posed danger to the public.

September 13, 2008 KWES TV
State and local authorities have responded to a private prison near the airport in Big Spring after an apparent riot. Big Spring Police responded to the riot around 9:00p.m. Friday night, and quickly set up a perimeter around the prison. There have unconfirmed reports of injuries, but a mother of an injured guard tells NewsWest 9 that her son did sustain injuries to the face. We were also told that three ambulances also left the prison after the riot, which is run by Cornell Companies. Viewers also reported seeing smoke coming from the prison, but our crew did not see any smoke when they arrived to the scene. Sgt. Tony Everett with the Big Spring Police Department did confirm that a fire was started in the prison but it is now under control. Authorities tell NewsWest 9 that the situation has calmed down for the night. The prison handles INS cases for the federal government. There have been no reports of inmates escaping the prison at this time.

September 12, 2008 KOSA CBS 7
Emergency officials are currently responding to a fire at the Flightline Prison located at the Big Spring airport. CBS 7 News has confirmed that a riot broke out at the prison about 9:00 p.m. Several ambulances were seen leaving the prison. Fire crews confirm there are six to eight people who were injured and taken to the hospital. No word yet on the severity of the injuries. According to Big Spring Police spokesperson Tony Everett, the riot is under control and Big Spring police have set up a perimeter around the facility. CBS 7's Greg Sherman was the first reporter on the scene. He says thick black smoke was seen coming from the prison. The Flightline unit handles low-risk inmates who are primarily incarcerated for immigration violations.

August 16, 2005 AP
Investigators want to know what started an inmate disturbance at a privately run prison in West Texas that left five workers hurt. The assaults happened at the Flightline Unit of the Big Spring Correctional Center. Center spokeswoman Janice Bishop says one staffer required hospital treatment, while the other four suffered minor injuries. Bishop says the unit was slightly damaged in Saturday night's incident. No inmates were injured. Bishop today declined to release further information about the assaults. Big Spring police say the disturbance was contained inside the prison. Texas troopers and the Howard County sheriff's department also responded to the center run by the Houston-based Cornell Companies.

March 13, 2001
A Cornell Corrections inmate escaped over a fence late Sunday night but his freedom was short lived.  The inmate, 29-year-old Ernesto Soto-Olivarez climbed over the fence at the Airpark unit around 9:30 p.m. Sunday and was spotted by correctional officers who took after him on foot.  He lost the officers in the darkness and about 30 minutes later, he approached a house in the 2600 block of Dow where he asked the resident to call for an ambulance, saying he was suffering from chest pains. The resident called for an ambulance and then, according to Big Spring Police Sgt. Roger Sweatt, the resident made another call to the police station.  "The inmate, without realizing it, had come to the residence of an off-duty police officer," said Sweatt. (Big Spring Herald, March 13, 2001)

Bill Clayton Detention Center
Littlefield, Texas
Southwestern Corrections (formerly run by GEO Group, formerly Correctional Services Corporation, formerly run by Corrections Concepts)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

September 17, 2004 Star-Tribune
Four Texans have been jailed on charges of assisting two Wyoming inmates in escaping from the Bill Clayton Detention Center in Littlefield, Texas, last week. Three of the Texans worked as guards at the prison, Littlefield Police Chief Bill McMinn said. Arrested and charged with permitting and facilitating the escape of a convicted felon were Roy Sosa and Yvonne Delagarza, who both worked as guards at the detention center. They were being held in the Lamb County Jail on $50,000 bond each and face two to 20 years in prison if convicted. Delagarza's brother, Robert Sandoval, and Tammy Harper, another prison guard, also have been charged in the incident with hindering the apprehension of a felon, a crime that carries a one- to 10-year prison sentence. They were also in jail on $50,000 bonds. McMinn said the motive for the escape appears to be that the women guards, Harper and Delagarza, were in love with the inmates.

September 16, 2004 Houston Chronicle
Four of the five federal inmates who escaped from a Frio County private prison last month remained at large Thursday, but officials said they've nabbed two people who helped the escapees vanish into a protective underworld of prison-gang sympathizers. Held on charges of instigating or aiding a federal escape are Randy Folsom, 42, and Debra Ayala, 44, both of San Antonio. U.S. Marshals Service officials, who arrested them Wednesday, said Folsom drove as many as four of the "Frio Five" escapees from the Pearsall lockup Aug. 6. The five inmates exited the private prison in daylight through cuts in the chain-link fencing of the recreation yard.
Investigators also are trying to determine whether prison personnel aided in the escape.

September 11, 2004 Casper Star Tribune
Two Wyoming inmates were back in custody Friday, after escaping from a Texas detention center the night before. Michael Solis and Jeremiah Zupko apparently cut through a fence to escape from the Bill Clayton Detention Center in Littlefield, Texas.

September 10, 2004 KCDB
Littlefield police arrested five people involved in a prison break at the Bill Clayton Detention Center, a private facility in Littlefield. So far, their investigation has led them to believe two female prison guards, Iyvonne Delagarza and Tammy Harper, may be involved. Janet Simmons' daughter works at the prison with one of the women who is suspected. At around 9:30 Thursday night, 35-year-old Michael Solis and 22-year-old Jeremiah Zupko cut their way through two layers of fence and razor wire using some kind of cutting tool. Police say they are investigating how the inmates got the tool. Police have not figured out a motive for the prison break and why these two female guards would have reason to help them.
The inmates initially were serving time for selling methemphetamines and heroin in Wyoming.

August 26, 2003
As the deadline nears for the Texas Commission for Youth to leave the Bill Clayton Detention Center in Littlefield, interest in the facility continues to heat up.  TCY intends to vacate the premises by Sept. 1, transferring juvenile residents to other TCY facilities.  Corrections Concepts Inc., a faith-based organization headquartered in Dallas, devoted about five hours last week to meet with Littlefield city officials and tour the facility.  "At this point we're considering some of the things they talked about," City Manager Danny Davis said Monday.  The two entities plan to meet again in September.  "They're going to try to have facilities for males, females, juveniles and geriatrics," Davis said. "Ours would be more likely ... adult males."  Financial terms were not discussed, he said.  "We did tell them what it would take to make our facility cash (needs)," Davis said.  Corrections Concepts would use the facility for a Christian-based prison program. The organization is in the final stage of starting a similar facility in Coleman that will likely house state and federal prisoners.  "This is falling in line with President Bush's faith-based initiatives," Davis said.  He added that the community of Littlefield is "really interested" in faith-based programs for the detention center.  "We're interested in seeing men's lives changed," said Bill Robinson, chairman of trustees of Corrections Concepts.  Under the program, men in their final 12 to 24 months of their prison terms, regardless of their offenses, could be transferred to the facility. There they would receive Christian-based transition training.  If Corrections Concepts were to use the Littlefield facility, about $1.5 million in capital improvements would be made in constructing a work center, Robinson said. Those funds would come from a "number of sources," he said.  Private industry would be allowed to set up shop in the medium-security facility and hire inmates at prevailing wage rates.  (Lubbock Online)

Bi-State Jail/Bowie County Detention Center
Bowie County, Texas
Correctional Medical Services, CiviGenics

Nov 19 2012 KTBS

New Bowie County Jail Management is giving back the keys. bowie county officials are now working on plans for future management of the bowie county correctional center and the bi- state jail. k-t-b-s three's julie parr has more. Community Education Centers notified the sheriff's department that they will not being renewing their contract to run the two facilities. Their contract will expire in 90 days. cec, formerly known as civigenics, has operated the bowie county correctional center and bi-state jail since 2001. there are currently 136 employees in both facilities. One thing I'm going to do is demand that anybody that comes in and takes over our jail hires the employees that we have in place for as much as possible if not 100 percent . sheriff james prince says he's also looking for the most cost effective way to run the two jails. he says they could hire another private company or the sheriff's office could run the facilities. another option could be to move bowie county inmates out of the bi-state jail. We just have to determine how much we're spending in the Bi-State versus what it would cost us to construct the things need to comply with jail standards in the annex. In a prepared statement .. the New Jersey company said they've enjoyed their working relationship with Bowie County .. but did not say why they've chosen not to renew their contract. Julie Parr, KTBS 3 News. both facilities can hold up to 900 hundred inmates. they currently have about 400. here's more about the company. both facilities can hold up to 900 hundred inmates. they currently have about 400. here's more about the company. community education centers operates halfway homes, prisons and "re- entry centers" in 17 states. since this summer, bowie county authorities have been investigating numerous complaints at the bowie county correctional center .. including a guard-assisted escape, a lawsuit alleging sexual misconduct .. and a guard assault on a prisoner. sheriff officials say the company's leaving will not effect those investigations. the miller county sheriff's office will soon provide inmate meals instd of using a food service company. sheriff's officials say that recipe will save the county about 30-thousand dollars a year. the miller county quorum court has already approved the plan. the sheriff's office must meet state and federal guidelines that require a daily diet of 18-hundred calories for inmates. the current contractor is tiger correctional services in jonesboro, arkansas. two arkansas men are arrested during a drug bust at an ashdown business.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

July 23, 2002
Sixteen jailers at Bowie County Correctional Center will be laid off this week, according to Warden Robert Page.  CiviGenics Texas, Inc., sent letters to the affected officers last week.  Their positions will be eliminated as of Friday due to "a decline in the inmate population," Page said.  The 488-bed facility nudged between the Bi-State Justice Center and the railroad yard in downtown Texarkana was housing 245 inmates as of Monday afternoon, Page said.  (The Texarkana Gazette)

B.M. Moore Correctional Center
Overton, Texas
MTC (Formerly run by CCA)

November 24, 2005 Disability Compliance Bulletin
A corrections officer sued her former employer, Corrections Corp. of America, claiming it failed to accommodate her disability after a work-related vehicular accident. (Cole v. Corrections Corp. of America, No. 05-cv-00411 (E.D. Texas complaint filed 10/31/05).) The case was originally filed in the District Court of Rusk County, Texas, where it was case number 2005-450. The lawsuit, which alleges violations of Title I of the ADA and Texas state law, seeks back pay, compensation for emotional pain, inconvenience and mental anguish, court costs and attorney's fees. Cole, a corrections office at the B.M. Moore Correctional Center in Overton, Texas, was injured in a vehicular accident during the scope of her employment. The accident, which occurred in July 2004, left her with wrist, back, hip and leg injuries. The complaint charges that over the next year, Cole was repeatedly discriminated against on the basis of her disability, and classified in a manner that would deprive her of opportunities for advancement.

Bradshaw State Jail
Henderson, Texas
CCA (formerly run by Management and Training Corporation)

June 16, 2009 Tyler Morning Telegraph
A prison guard at the Bradshaw State Jail has been arrested after it was alleged she performed sexual acts on a male prisoner and gave him money. Rusk County Precinct 5 Justice of the Peace Bob Richardson arraigned Hether Nicole Bargsley, 32, last Friday on the charges of violations of civil rights of a person in custody by sexual contact and prohibitive substance in a correctional facility. According to court documents, Bargsley allegedly performed a sexual act with a male Bradshaw State Jail inmate on April 25 in a doorway to one of the prison's dormitories. As the investigation continued, Bargsley told officials she did in fact perform the sex act and added she also had given the inmate $200 in currency at different times. The court documents state the offender involved has corroborated Bargsley's story. The violation of civil rights is a state jail felony and the prohibitive substance charge is a third-degree felony. Richardson set the woman's bonds at $7,500 and $10,000 respectively. Steve Owen, a spokesman for Corrections Corporation of America, which runs the private facility, said Bargsley was hired as a guard on Sept. 22, 2008, and was terminated June 11. Owen said he could not discuss the specifics of the case citing an ongoing investigation.

January 23, 2008 Longview News-Journal
An inmate at Bradshaw State Jail in Henderson was found dead in his cell this past week, a Texas Department of Corrections spokesman said. Gregory Cole, 30, was discovered hanging by a bed sheet from the light fixture in his cell at about 11 a.m. Jan. 15, said Jason Clark. Jail personnel performed emergency care on Cole, and he was taken to a hospital. He was pronounced dead at 11:30 a.m. In June 2006, Cole was sentenced to 10 years in state jail for possession and intent to deliver a controlled substance in McLennan County, Clark said. The spokesman did not know where Cole lived. Clark said investigators with the attorney general's office were notified of the death. He said the attorney general's office always is notified when an inmate dies. A call to the AG's office was not returned Tuesday.

November 25, 2003
Private prison-management corporations and their employees may be sued under §[1983 by a prisoner who has suffered a constitutional injury. FACTS: Billy Rosborough is a prisoner in the Bradshaw State Jail, a Texas prison owned and operated by defendant Management and Training Corp., a private prison-management corporation. Defendant Chris Shirley is a corrections officer employed by MTC at the jail. Rosborough sued MTC and Shirley under 42 U.S.C. §[1983 alleging that he was subjected to cruel and unusual punishment in violation of the Eighth Amendment when Shirley maliciously slammed a door on Rosborough's fingers, severing two fingertips. Rosborough also alleges that Shirley displayed deliberate indifference to Rosborough's resulting serious medical condition. In addition, Rosborough alleges that MTC is liable under 42 U.S.C. §[1983 for its improper training and supervision of Shirley. Rosborough supplemented his federal action with state-law negligence claims. The district court sua sponte dismissed Rosborough's action on the ground that Shirley was an employee of MTC rather than an employee of the State of Texas and, therefore, was not acting under color of state law for purposes of suit under 42 U.S.C. §[1983. The court dismissed the supplemental state-law claims but did not address MTC's potential liability for failing to train Shirley. Rosborough appeals. HOLDING: Reversed and remanded. "To state a claim under §[1983, a plaintiff must allege the violation of a right secured by the Constitution and laws of the United States, and must show that the alleged deprivation was committed by a person acting under color of state law." West v. Atkins, 487 U.S. 42 [1988]. At issue here is the "under color of state law" requirement. The district court assumed that this requirement prevented a person in private employ from being sued under §[1983. The Supreme Court, however, has held that "[t]o act"under color' of law does not require that the accused be an officer of the state." Adickes v. S.H. Kress & Co., 398 U.S. 144 [1970]. Under the Supreme Court's "public function" test, a private entity acts under color of state law "when that entity performs a function which is traditionally the exclusive province of the state." Wong v. Stripling, 881 F.2d 200 [5th Cir. 1989]. The Supreme Court has explained that "when private individuals or groups are endowed by t he State with powers or functions governmental in nature, they become agencies or instrumentalities of the State and subject to its constitutional limitations." Evans v. Newton, 382 U.S. 296 [1966]. Thus, the Supreme Court has found private actors to be susceptible to suit under §[1983. Relevant to this case, the Supreme Court has suggested -- though it has not actually held -- that state prisoners might bring suit under §[1983 against privately-owned correctional facilities. In Skelton v. Pri-Cor Inc., 963 F.2d 100 [6th Cir. 1991], the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, relying on these Supreme Court precedents, held that a private company administering a state corrections facility could be sued under §[1983. The Sixth Circuit found determinative the fact that the corporation was "performing a public function traditionally reserved to the state." The court reasoned that "the power exercised by [the private prison-management company] is possessed by virtue of state law and made possible only because the wrongdoer is clothed with the authority of state law.'" Moreover it found that "'[t]here is a sufficiently close nexus between the State and the challenged action of [the corporation] so that the action of the latter may be fairly treated as that of the State itself.' Thus, according to the Sixth Circuit, the private corporation "acted under color of law for purposes of §[1983." District courts within this circuit have similarly held that private prison-management companies and their employees are subject to §[1983 liability because they are performing a government function traditionally reserved to the state. The court agrees with the Sixth Circuit and with those district courts that have found that private prison-management corporations and their employees may be sued under §[1983 by a prisoner who has suffered a constitutional injury. Clearly, confinement of wrongdoers -- though sometimes delegated to private entities -- is a fundamentally governmental function. These corporations and their employees are therefore subject to limitations imposed by the Eighth Amendment. The court finds that the district court erred in dismissing Rosborough's §[1983 claim.  (Texas Lawyer)

Brazoria County Jail
Brazoria, Texas
Capitol Corrections Resources

November 30, 2005 The Facts
Brazoria County Pct. 2 Commissioner Jim Clawson announced Tuesday he won't seek re-election next year, opting for retirement after four terms. Clawson said he had few regrets about his tenure, but wishes he could have stopped the county from entering a contract with a private prison company to house out-of-state prisoners from Missouri. Clawson voted against the project at every stage, predicting it would turn out badly for the county because there was no guarantee it wouldn't end up with maximum security inmates, despite assurances to the contrary, he said. That, in fact, is exactly what happened, leading to the 1996 shakedown, which was caught on videotape. The county ended up settling a lawsuit brought by inmates for $2.2 million. As Clawson predicted, the jail never became the revenue-generating machine officials hoped it would.

January 1, 2000
A record $2.2 million class-action lawsuit reached between inmates and CCR.  Suit stemmed from videos made of guards abusing inmates.

March 2, 1997
Video tape made of Missouri inmates being abused.

September 18, 1996
Video tape made of Missouri inmates being abused.

Bridgeport Correctional Center
Bridgeport, Texas
MTC (former run by GEO Group)

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 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 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 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.

Bridgeport Pre-Parole and Transfer Facility
Bridgeport, Texas
Corrections Corporation of America
June 28, 2005
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.

Brooks County Detention Center
Falfurrias, Texas
Louisiana Corrections Services
October 30, 2012 Caller Times

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

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

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

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

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

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

Burnet County Jail, Texas
Southwestern Correctional

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.

March 13, 2012 Daily Tribune
The escape of a man from the Burnet County Jail has grown into a family affair with the arrest of the inmate's brother on charges the sibling tried to help the suspected jailbird fly the coop. The news March 13 followed an earlier report from sheriff's deputies that the brothers' mother also was arrested a few days ago in the case. Louis Arce IV, 29, of Burnet was charged March 12 with hindering apprehension or prosecution of a known felon. He remained in the jail pending the setting of a bond. Deputies arrested Arce's 59-year-old mother Francis Ybarra March 10 on the same charges. She posted a $10,000 bond and was released from jail March 11. The accusations in both cases stem from the escape of Johnny Angel Ybarra, 40, from the public-private jail March 1. He was recaptured about three hours later. According to an arrest affidavit by sheriff's Investigator Bo Boshears, Arce told Texas Rangers assisting with the case he helped Ybarra after the escape by taking him from their mother's home on Pierce Street to a relative's place at the nearby Green Acres Apartments. Ybarra, who is serving a life sentence on three felony charges including burglary of a habitation with intent to commit a sexual offense, disappeared from a handicap cell sometime from 12:50 a.m.-3:30 a.m., deputies said. Jailers discovered a hole had been knocked through a cinder block wall under a sink in Ybarra's cell using the rail from a toilet. The convicted felon hung towels over the sink to cover his escape route and even rolled up blankets under his bed sheet to make it look like somebody was sleeping there. Ybarra made his way to the roof, slipped through razor wire and dropped to the ground, deputies said.

March 13, 2012 Daily Tribune
The mother of an accused jail escapee landed behind bars in the same facility after deputies charged her with trying to get her son out of Texas. Francis Ybarra, 59, is charged with hindering the apprehension or prosecution of a known felon, Burnet County Sheriff W.T Smith said. She was released March 11 from the Burnet County Jail after posting a $10,000 bond. The case stems from the March 1 escape of Johnny Angel Ybarra, 40, from the public-private jail after he received a life sentence on three felony charges including burglary of a habitation with intent to commit a sexual offense. An arrest affidavit by sheriff's Investigator Bo Boshears stated after the son escaped from jail, the mother was trying to help him get out of Burnet and to a relative's home in Colorado. But before the duo could carry out the plan, officers captured the inmate at the Green Acres Apartments. According to the investigators, sometime from 12:50 a.m.-3:30 a.m. March 1, Ybarra disappeared from his cell. A hole had been knocked into a cinderblock wall under a sink using the railing from the toilet in the handicap cell. The escape route was hidden by towels hanging to dry on the sink. A rolled-up blanket under the sheets made it look like someone was in the bed. Reaching the roof, the inmate slipped through razor wire and dropped to the ground.

March 5, 2012 Daily Tribune
The Burnet County Jail has flunked a state inspection that found design flaws in the wake of an escape March 1 by an inmate who chiseled a hole in the wall. The state report says the private-public jail, which opened with 587 beds in April 2009 at a cost of $23 million, is "non-compliant" with security standards. "It means something is wrong," County Judge Donna Klaeger said March 5. The Burnet County Sheriff's Office supervises the jail, which is operated by the private firm LaSalle Southwest Corrections. Texas Commission on Jail Standards inspectors recently found "deficiencies" in the network of concrete blocks and reinforcement bars that support walls near cells for handicapped inmates, Executive Director Adan Munoz said. It is in one of the handicapped cells that Johnny Angel Ybarra, 40, removed a rail by a toilet and chiseled away at cinder blocks under a sink until he created an escape route, investigators said. He hid his handiwork by hanging towels to dry over the sink and replacing the rail before guards noticed it was missing, they added. "Those cells are unpopulated now," Klaeger said. Hale Mills Construction built the jail at 900 County Lane three years ago. County Commissioner Bill Neve said he plans to meet Hale Mills builders March 6 at the jail, along with Sheriff W.T. Smith and LaSalle officials. "We are going to talk about construction issues related to the jail," Neve added. Also, the commissioners plan to hear a jail security update during the meeting March 13, Klaeger said. Neither Smith nor LaSalle officials could be reached for comment March 5.

October 20, 2009 KXAN
New razor wire that measures more than 4 feet tall and nearly 3 feet wide is coiled around the metal roof and down the sides of the new Burnet County Jail. The $90,000 security measure was recently added to the 7-month-old facility to stop another inmate from sneaking out. Authorities are still searching for a man who made his getaway during recreation time back in August. On a surprise visit last Thursday, jail inspectors found concerns inside after questioning two female inmates. One was pregnant and said she was not given proper medication. Another mental health patient said she was not given her medication either, so inspectors checked her medical chart. "There were certain medications that needed to be prescribed for her that had not been given to her, and that's obviously not in compliance with jail standards," said Adan Munoz, executive director of the Texas Commission on Jail Standards . "They get excellent care here," said Tammy Manning, the Burnet County Jail medical supervisor. Manning was out of town during the inspection but normally sees the inmate who she said had been refusing to show up to appointments after they were scheduled. The situation had not been documented on her medical chart that state inspectors reviewed. "We do have room for improvement in our documentation," said Manning. "And our actional plan we put into place Friday was to improve our documentation so this will not happen again." One of the female inmates also said they were not getting recreation time everyday. "We went on to check the recreation log to see if their concerns were valid," said Munoz. "We couldn't even find a recreation log." Burnet County Jail Warden Bruce Armstrong admits there was a breakdown there, too. "We run rec everyday," said Armstrong. "And the officer calls in the count to the central control officer whose suppose to be logging the count down on how many offenders went to rec, and they were neglecting to document the count." Armstrong said it has been taken care of, but the state said there is one more requirement the county has yet to comply with. The state does not have the jail's operational plan, which covers everything from what to do in case of a fire to how to administer health care. "The fact that it's been open since April and still not within our agency certainly gives us great concern," said Munoz. The county told the state they were working on it. Munoz sent written notification of the deficiencies to the county and Southwest Corrections, the company who manages the jail. They have 30 days to comply.

September 3, 2009 Burnet Bulletin
Only four months after opening its doors to the public with tours, speeches and a ribbon cutting, the Burnet County Jail has been cited by the Texas Commission on Jail Standards for a different kind of open house: Improper supervision of inmates after a prisoner escaped Sunday night and fled past nearby residential neighborhoods and to freedom. The controversial privately run jail – a facility that many nearby residents unsuccessfully fought during its development – now is officially deemed noncompliant with Texas jail standards, confirmed Adan Munoz, a former sheriff who serves as executive director of the Texas Commission on Jail Standards. An inspector from the commission visited the jail and found inadequate its procedures for checking prisoners, Munoz said. Meanwhile, the jailer responsible for supervising prisoners into and out of a recreation yard has resigned, and two other correctional officers at the jail face disciplinary action that could mean suspension or termination as a result of the escape of Nuana Antonio Fuentes-Sanchez, confirmed Billy McConnell, co-owner of the private jail management firm. Fuentes-Sanchez, 23, a day laborer and native of El Salvador, was arrested in connection with a violent robbery of a Burnet County couple in April. Being noncompliant doesn't mean the jail is in danger of being shut down. It means Southwestern Correctional LLC, the private company hired by the county to manage the jail, has 30 days to report how it will satisfactorily resolve the issues, Munoz said. Currently, 37 of the 247 county jails regulated by the TCJS are noncompliant with the standards, which could be for a range of minor to major issues, such as inoperable toilet facilities, malfunctioning intercom systems or inadequate staffing, Munoz said. The Burnet County Jail’s issues fall under the heading of “supervision of inmates,” a key section of the 600 standards regulated by the commission. Munoz said “The best way to describe it is a lack of diligence, a lack of professionalism,” Munoz said.

November 19, 2007
This Monday, concerned Burnet County residents will hold a public meeting with Burnet County Commissioners to discuss their opposition to a proposed 500-bed private detention center. The meeting will take place Monday, November 19th, at Old Courthouse on the square in Burnet at 7:00pm. Burnet County residents are concerned that the proposed jail will be operated by a Louisiana-based for-profit private prison corporation, that out-of-county prisoners will shipped to the prison, and that Burnet County has taken steps to float revenue bonds to pay for the prison, which could endanger the county's future bond rating, without a public vote. Private prison corporations have a track record that include human rights abuses, lawsuits, higher rates of violence, and financial mismanagement. Research shows that prison construction has no positive economic impact on communities. Counties that finance private prison construction have been held liable for abuses that take place in the prisons.

Central Texas Detention Facility
San Antonio, Texas
GEO Group (formerly known as Wackenhut Corrections)
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.

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, said Al Pacheco, the Wackenhut warden.  Cited for driving without a license, the driver was likewise treated and released at Christus Rosa Hospital.  The wreck served as a bloodless reminder of an earlier fiasco for the U.S. Marshals service, which contracts with the Wackenhut and oversees federal prisoners awaiting trial in the Western District of Texas.  Two federal inmates died in April when a prisoner transport operated by the private security firm CiviGenics crashed en route from El Paso.  Wackenhut's Pacheco said he did not know how many times the driver, who started working as a Wackenhut guard five months ago, had driven the daily transports to the federal courthouse on East Durango Boulevard.  (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)

Children's Assessment Center Foundation
Harris, Texas
January 16, 2002 Harris County Commissioners Court approved an agreement Tuesday changing how the county and a nonprofit group run a renowned center for sexually abused children. The new contract with the Children's Assessment Center Foundation is the result of months of study, and officials said its approval resolves problems that have dogged the program for the past year. County Auditor Tommy Tompkins said last year the foundation owed the county $1.5 million reimbursement for some expenses. Officials feared the center had become distracted from that mission last year after Tompkins' discovery of the $1.5 million debt and allegations that Ellen Cokinos, the center's first director, was mismanaging the program. Cokinos -- a county employee -- came under court scrutiny after employees, volunteers and state and local officials accused her of falsifying reports on the number of children served by the center, using employees for personal errands and damaging relations between the CAC and partner agencies. Cokinos, who has repeatedly denied any wrongdoing, resigned in May, saying her departure was best for the program she helped build. The allegations led to investigations by auditors and District Attorney Chuck Rosenthal. The auditors helped tweak financial controls over the center, and prosecutors said in November they found no indictable offenses. (Houston Chronicle)

Cleveland Pre-Release Center
Cleveland, Texas
CCA

Sept. 3, 1998
Corrections Corporation of America is pulling out of the pre-release prison here, citing a disagreement with the local school board over money owed in lieu of taxes.  CCA served officials notice this week to the Texas Department of Criminal Justice that it will no longer manage the Cleveland Pre-Release Center in Liberty County after Dec. 31, said company spokesperson Laurie Shanblum.  "It is the result of a difference of opinion between CCA and the Cleveland Independent School District regarding the annual amount of money to be paid in lieu of taxes to the school district."  School board president Walter Stovall said CCA's announcement took him by surprise.  The board, he said, was merely enforcing CCA's tax obligation and was willing to listen to abatement proposals.  "It's terrible," County Commissioner Melvin Hunt said.  "Almost everybody is unhappy.  The county and city have been giving tax abatements to CCA for a long time."  The trouble between CCA and the Cleveland school district started in 1995 - more than five years after the facility now valued at $13.2 million, was built to house 520 state inmates within two years of release.  That year the school district sued the for-profit corporation in federal court for reducing their $180,000 annual tax payment by $100,000 without permission.  Last month, the school district's lawsuit against CCA was settled out of court, with CCA agreeing to pay its outstanding debt of $300,000 plus interest.  Both the city and county have given CCA more than a 50 percent tax abatement since 1995, authorities said.  (Houston Chronicle) 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Coke County Juvenile Justice Center
Bronte, Texas
GEO Group (formerly known as Wackenhut Corrections)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

March 13, 2007 KTRK
Two inmates discovered missing from a West Texas youth prison overnight were captured Monday in Eagle Pass after a woman saw them in a convenience store and thought they looked suspicious, authorities said. Coke County Sheriff Rick Styles said the woman thought the two were illegal immigrants and called the Maverick County Sheriff's Office, which arrested them. Styles said he expected the two to be returned to Bronte in a few days. He said the two allegedly stole a pickup in Bronte and left it in Eagle Pass. Two other inmates at the Texas Youth Commission's Coke County Juvenile Justice Center were found hiding in the attic after staff were told that a vent had fallen out of the ceiling, said TYC spokesman Jim Hurley. Another inmate said insulation had fallen on his face. Investigators searched both inside and outside the facility. No breach had been found in the perimeter fence, he said. The 17- and-18-year-old missing inmates, both Hispanic males, were not imprisoned for violent crimes, Hurley said. The facility in Bronte drew attention last week after a convicted sex offender was fired from his post as a correctional officer. David Andrew Lewis, 23, said he told his employer of his background when he applied for the job. He was hired in August 2006 by a private contractor. State officials have said the case demonstrated that private prison operators don't always check employees' juvenile records.

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.  Background: Several girls said they were sexually and mentally abused by Wackenhut employees at the Coke County Juvenile Justice Center in Bronte, Texas.  Wackenhut owns and operates the facility.  The claims were settled in mediation for 1.5 million. Wackenhut was to prepare the settlement papers by Oct. 8, 1999, and wire transfer the settlement funds to the inmates' attorney by Oct. 15, 1999. However, Wackenhut failed to do so.  The attorney filed a motion to enforce the settlement agreement, but failed to do so under seal, which exposed the terms of the settlement agreement and resulted in a newspaper article about the deal.  Wackenhut then moved to set aside the settlement and sought sanctions against the inmates' counsel.  The court referred the matter to a magistrate judge who found the inmates' counsel had acted in bad faith. However, he recommended upholding the settlement.  (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.  In an agreement reached in October 1999, Wackenhut did not admit liability and said the payment was for "alleged personal injuries only."  Details were confidential and remained under seal until the detainees' attorneys disclosed the terms when they filed a motion to enforce the settlement without sealing it, Wackenhut claimed.  Confidentiality was at the heart of the settlement agreement.  "The unsealed motion exposed the terms of the settlement agreement and resulted in a newspaper article regarding the agreement," Judge Carl E. Stewart wrote.  (AP)

Cold Springs Correctional Facility (Mansfield Boot Camp)
Fort Worth, Texas
Correctional Services Corporation
October 22, 2005 Sarasota Herald Tribune
Correctional Services Corp. has settled a $38.3 million judgment that held the company responsible for the death of an 18-year-old inmate at a Texas boot camp. Terms of the agreement are confidential, but the Sarasota-based prison manager said Friday it will pay $2.7 million toward the settlement. The rest will be covered by CSC's liability insurers, which initially balked at paying the award. The agreement is contingent on the closing of CSC's previously announced sale to The GEO Group Inc. for $62 million. CSC shareholders will vote on the sale Nov. 4. If that deal falls through, so does the settlement. A Texas jury in August 2003 found CSC and a nurse at the now-closed Mansfield boot camp responsible for the death of Bryan D. Alexander. Alexander, serving a six-month sentence for a misdemeanor driving conviction, died in 2001 of a rare penicillin-resistant form of pneumonia. Trial testimony showed he was treated for a cold and flu even though he had coughed up blood for five days before his death. His parents sued CSC and nurse Knyvett Reyes for their loss and anguish. Reyes was convicted of negligent homicide and was sentenced to four years of community supervision. She also surrendered her registered nurse's license. The judgment against CSC and Reyes included $35 million in actual damages, $750,000 in punitive damages and more than $2.4 million in interest. The settlement will resolve all claims and lawsuits against CSC and Reyes. It also will end a dispute between CSC and its liability insurers over who should pay. Boca Raton-based GEO is paying $62 million in cash, or $6 a share, and assuming $124 million in liabilities to acquire CSC. It will then sell the Youth Services International subsidiary to CSC president James Slattery for $3.75 million. That unit manages programs at 17 centers with 1,300 beds. GEO will acquire the adult division that owns or operates 15 facilities with 7,500 beds. GEO manages 41 prisons and jails with 36,000 beds in the United States, Australia, South Africa and Canada. Shares of CSC were selling for $5.91 on the Nasdaq at the close of trading Friday, up 1 cent.

October 22, 2005 NEWS8 Austin
The corporate parent of a now-defunct Mansfield detention facility has reached an out-of-court settlement with the family of a teenager who died while serving time at its boot camp. Correctional Services Corp. announced the settlement yesterday with the family of Bryan Alexander. The 18-year-old died in 2001 while serving a six-month sentence for a drunken-driving arrest. Alexander's family was awarded nearly $40 million in damages by a Tarrant County jury in 2003. But the details of Friday's settlement have not been released. Under the agreement, the boy's family will not file any new suits or pursue appeals against Tarrant County or its criminal-court judges. The boy's parents sued the company and camp nurse after he died from penicillin-resistant pneumonia. Although the teen complained of weakness and was coughing up blood, the camp had waited several days before taking him to a hospital. The suit claimed the camp and nurse failed to provide the teen with adequate and timely medical care.

September 30, 2005 Star-Telegram
U.S. District Court Judge Terry Means on Wednesday dismissed a lawsuit against Tarrant County and its criminal court judges over the death of a teen-ager who was serving a sentence at the former Mansfield boot camp four years ago. Means left the door open for attorneys representing the family of Bryan Alexander to sue the judges in state court. A lawsuit against the county has been thrown out of state court. Alexander, 18, died in January 2001 while serving a six-month sentence for drunken driving. While at the camp, he complained of feeling weak and coughing up blood. Days later, he was taken to John Peter Smith Hospital, where he was immediately put into intensive care. He died two days later. Tests indicated that he had a rare, penicillin-resistant form of pneumonia. In the federal lawsuit, Alexander's family said the county, and the judges individually, should be held liable because they didn't properly monitor Correctional Services Corp., the company contracted to run the camp. A year ago, Means denied the judges judicial immunity, saying they were acting not as judges but as managers of the facility. But in his ruling Wednesday, Means said public officials do enjoy immunity from lawsuits for damages providing that their conduct does not clearly violate an individual's rights.

February 10, 2005 Star Telegram
Several Tarrant County judges sued over a death at the defunct boot camp are being accused of unethical behavior for considering cases involving the attorneys who are suing them. Defense attorneys Charlie Smith and Bill Lane say that state district judges Sharen Wilson and George Gallagher have decided that they will not automatically transfer those cases to other courts. Since January 2003, the judges have routinely transferred cases handled by Smith and Lane to other courts after the attorneys filed a federal civil rights lawsuit against them and the county. In the federal lawsuit, the attorneys say that sloppy oversight by the judges allowed an array of problems to continue at the former Mansfield boot camp, where 18-year-old inmate Bryan Alexander died. Lane and Smith are among several attorneys representing the Alexander family. U.S. District Judge Terry Means ruled in August that the judges can be held liable individually, along with the county, because they were acting as managers of the facility operated by Correctional Services Corp. Smith filed a motion to remove Wilson from hearing a felony theft case on Tuesday. In the filing, he described the judge's decision to deny a transfer as "clear evidence" of hostility toward him. Denying Smith's motion "creates a reasonable doubt as to Judge Sharen Wilson's capacity to act impartially as a judge in connection with this case," court documents state.

August 27, 2004 
Tarrant County's criminal court judges are not protected by judicial immunity in a civil rights lawsuit stemming from the death of a teen-ager at the former Mansfield boot camp, a federal judge ruled.  U.S. District Court Judge Terry Means said the judges can be held liable individually, along with the county, because they were acting not as judges, but as managers of the facility operated by Correctional Services Corp.  The judges helped establish the budgets and approved the selection of the private prison operator "in spite of a significant history of operational deficiencies," attorneys for the teen-ager's family have argued. "The court concludes that the defendant judges are not entitled to judicial immunity," Means wrote this week.  "It's huge," Mark Haney, the family's attorney, said of Means' ruling. "The judges can be held personally accountable for establishing policies and procedures ... that routinely denied access to medical care to the detainees."  In July, Means denied a claim by Northland Insurance Co., CSC's insurance carrier, stating that its policies do not cover the judgment against them.  (Star-Telegram)

February 25, 2004
Mid-States Services - the Hurst company in line to take over Tarrant County's jail food contract if the current company fails to do a better job -- has its own food-quality problems, a former Mid-States manager told commissioners Tuesday.  Emilio Gonzalez, who until January was director of operations for Mid-States, said the former jail contractor often took outdated food from its commissary operations and served it to inmates after removing packaging that listed the freshness dates.  "Vendors need to make a profit, but it doesn't need to be at the county's expense," Gonzalez told county commissioners Tuesday during their meeting.  Mid-States Chief Executive John Sammons said the allegations are untrue and blamed them on a competitor that he declined to name.  Sammons said some boxes of outdated food were found in Mid-States' stocks when the company provided food service to the jail, but he said those boxes had already been designated for disposal when jailers told the company to remove them.  "This is another desperate attempt by those who would like to cause Mid- States problems, at a time when the commissioners are looking at us as a back-up supplier," he said.  Last week, commissioners put current contractor Aramark Correctional Services on 30 days' notice to improve the quality of food and service or be removed from the contract.  Mid-States, which held the jail food contract until December, was designated as a backup supplier if Aramark failed to meet the terms.  Sheriff Dee Anderson said Tuesday that in the week since the commissioners issued the ultimatum, Aramark has made improvements and inmate complaints are declining.  Checks of the food service have found improved food temperatures and larger portions, he said.  But the company still has a long way to go to be acceptable, he said.  "If I had to make a recommendation today, I'd cancel the contract," Anderson said.  As to Gonzalez's allegations about Mid-States, Anderson said he would discuss them with commissioners.  "If any of it is true, it's disturbing," he said.  Gonzalez apologized to commissioners for not coming forward sooner, and said that during contract deliberations last fall he was still employed by Mid-States and feared retaliation.  He said he resigned because of concerns about Mid-States' operations. Sammons said that Gonzalez left Mid-States on good terms to take another job and that he was disappointed by the comments.  An Aramark spokeswoman did not return a phone call seeking comment Tuesday but has said Aramark officials believe they are meeting contractual obligations.  Commissioners did not discuss Gonzalez's comments at the Tuesday meeting because the issue was not posted as an item for consideration. After the meeting, however, commissioners questioned the timing of the comments.  "I'm always grateful for people to come forward, but it's odd that he would come forward at this time," Precinct 1 Commissioner Dionne Bagsby said.  Precinct 3 Commissioner Glen Whitley said he gave no credence to Gonzalez's comments and would vote to bring in Mid-States if Aramark did not improve its service.  "It just amazes me that this guy shows up to speak against Mid-States a week after we put Aramark on 30-days' notice," he said.  Mid-States was the food service operator that served meals to inmates in the Tarrant County Jail until Aramark won a $3.3 million contract over Mid-States, Mid-America and Canteen Correctional Services.  Mid-America -- run by former Mid-States executive Jack Madera -- operates the jail commissary, which sells toiletries and snack items to jail inmates. Madera has been indicted along with two other men on charges that they used a forged document to win a jail food-service contract in Kaufman County.  The indictments stem from an investigation into whether Madera influenced Dallas County Sheriff Jim Bowles with thousands of dollars in favors before Bowles picked Madera's company for a $20 million jail commissary contract.  The scope has widened to include Madera's dealings with other counties, including Tarrant and Denton.  (Lawyer Texas Parole)

February 19, 2004
It would be easy to dismiss inmates' complaints about jail food simply as whining -- not worthy of serious attention because incarceration is not meant to be a pleasant experience.  But in the case of the Tarrant County Jail and the meals being served by its newly contracted food service provider, Aramark Correctional Services, the food being distributed to prisoners not only does not meet the taste test -- it may actually pose health risks.  Inmates have been complaining about the quality of the food since Aramark began serving the county's four jail sites in December under a $3.3 million annual contract.  In response to the complaints and boycott of the meals by some prisoners, county purchasing director Jack Beacham and other county officials went to inspect the food service operation.  Beacham said they saw 17 pans of soured pinto beans, discovered foods that were being kept at improper temperatures, and witnessed one employee drop tortillas on the floor and then place them back on the service line.  (Lawyer Texas Parole)

December 3, 2003
Visiting State District Judge Roger Towery has ruled that Sarasota, Fla.-based Correctional Services Corp. must pay a $38 million judgment that was awarded earlier this summer to the parents of a young man who died at a Mansfield, Tex., boot camp in 2001.  In August, a jury in Fort Worth's 236th District Court awarded the family of Bryan Alexander $35 million in actual damages and $5.1 million in punitive damages following an eight-week trial.  Alexander died from a penicillin-resistant form of pneumonia he contracted while participating in a six-month boot camp program as a condition of his misdemeanor probation. Evidence in the case showed that Alexander, who was 18 years old, died after CSC employees ignored his pleas for medical attention for days.  In September, Judge Towery set the actual damages at $37.4 million, including interest, and reduced the punitive damages to $750,000. CSC responded by asking the court to reduce or set aside the entire judgment, arguing that there was "no legally or factually sufficient evidence to support the jury's findings." CSC President James Slattery told CSC investors during a recent conference call that the company expected the court to reduce the $38 million judgment. In his ruling issued yesterday, the judge denied all of CSC's motions.  "We are pleased that once again the jury's verdict in this case has been upheld," says attorney Jeff Kobs, a partner in Fort Worth's Kobs & Haney, who represented the Alexander family along with Fort Worth attorney Bill Lane. "We are confident that the Courts will continue to deny CSC's repeated attacks on the jury's decision."  As a result of this ruling, CSC has until Dec. 16, 2003, to file its notice of appeal, and the company must also post a $25 million bond by Dec. 28, 2003, in order to prevent the Alexander family from attempting to collect the judgment amount. Interest has been accruing at a rate of $5,250 per day since the original judgment was entered in September.  In a related federal court action, CSC's insurance carrier, Northland Insurance Co., is seeking a declaration that its policies do not cover the $38 million judgment. CSC is arguing that the Northland policies should cover the judgment amount, and that Northland acted improperly in failing to settle the claims prior to the jury's verdict.  For more information on the court's ruling, please contact attorney Jeff Kobs at 817.332.5956, attorney Bill Lane at 817.625.5570, or Bruce Vincent at 214.559.4630 or pager 888.361.8452.  (yahoo.com)

October 10, 2003
Day in and day out, workers sling hash to feed the 3,500 Tarrant County Jail inmates three hot meals a day.   But as companies line up this month to bid for a multimillion-dollar food-services contract, the focus has shifted from slinging hash to slinging mud.  Two of the companies expected to bid on the contract are run by former business partners turned bitter rivals.  Sealed bids are due to the Tarrant County purchasing department by Oct. 27. The contract, now held by Hurst-based Mid-States Services, is worth about $4.1 million a year.  Among the companies expected to bid is Dallas-based Mid-America Services, run by Jack Madera. He has a long history of winning lucrative contracts and maintaining friendships with elected officials who have a say in whether the company gets public business.  Mid-America will compete for the contract against Mid-States, which Madera started in 1970 and sold in February 1999.  John Sammons, chief executive of Mid-States and one of the investors who bought the company from Madera, said there is more to the bid than just a second helping of cafeteria business.  "Our group is committed to running this company with integrity," Sammons said. "There is a clear-cut delineation between the Mid-States of the past and the Mid-States of today.  "The kind of customer base we want is the kind who embraces integrity in government."  Business and pleasure  Many in Texas law enforcement consider Madera a friend, including Tarrant County Sheriff Dee Anderson, whose office oversees jail operations including the kitchen.  "The relationship began when I was elected," Anderson said. "Jack was, at that point, a consultant for Mid-States.  "Both he and John [Sammons] became friends of mine and supporters."  Sammons says Madera's ties to law-enforcement officials prompted him to keep Madera on board as a consultant after Madera sold Mid-States in 1999.  Madera and Sammons parted ways in March 2002, when Madera started Mid-America after a three-year non-competition agreement expired with Mid-States.  Madera looked to his old friends to help his new business and promptly won contracts in Dallas and Denton counties.  There are two types of contracts: food-services contracts, under which the county pays companies to provide meals to inmates, and commissary contracts, under which companies sell snacks and other items to inmates and return a portion of the proceeds to the county.  Sheriffs control jail commissaries, including selection of the companies that handle the services. Bids are required, and county proceeds must be used to benefit inmates.  A provision applying only to Tarrant County requires commissioners court approval of commissary contracts.  Some of Madera's contracts have raised eyebrows. In Dallas, Madera's relationship with Sheriff Jim Bowles has been criticized since Bowles awarded the commissary contract to Mid-America in June 2002.  One Dallas County official labeled the contract a "bad business decision," and questions have been raised about whether Madera exerted undue influence through his friendships. But no specific allegations of wrongdoing have been voiced publicly.  Madera's bid in Dallas County gave the sheriff's department about $600,000 a year, less than what was offered by two other competitors, including Mid-States.  In Tarrant County, Anderson awarded Madera's Mid-America the contract for commissary services in April. The company sells aspirin, snacks, soap and other items from carts, dubbed "banana wagons," that workers wheel through the jail.  Under the commissary contract, Madera will pay the sheriff's office at least $750,000 a year. As was the case in Denton and Dallas counties, Madera won the Tarrant County business by beating out Mid-States, which held the existing contracts.  'No hidden agenda'  Anderson says he is confident that the bidding will be above board, as he says it was when he awarded Mid-America the commissary contract.  Tarrant County commissioners are expected to vote on the food-services contract by Dec. 31. Six companies are expected to submit bids, which will be analyzed by an evaluation committee.  Anderson said the current commissary contract shows that local officials are committed to hammering out the best deal possible.  "I believe we have the most lucrative contract for any county in the state," Anderson said. "It is second to none."  Anderson said he has lunched regularly and dined occasionally with Madera and has dined with Sammons, played golf at his country club and seen a Dallas Stars game from a luxury box, all at Sammons' expense.  "I don't do anything in secret," Anderson said. "There is no hidden agenda.  "Because we are clients, we have a relationship with those people," he said. "Certainly, nothing improper has taken place."  Sammons also said there is nothing improper about his relationship with Anderson.  "Building relationships is part of doing business in the public and the private sector," Sammons said. "It is hard to develop trust."  Madera would not comment to the Star-Telegram except to say he intends to bid on the jail food-services contract and that he denies any inappropriate relationships with Tarrant County officials.  "There is nothing inappropriate going on in Dallas, either," Madera said.  Commissioner J.D. Johnson, who represents Precinct 4, in the northwest part of the county, said his 15- to 20-year friendship with Madera has not influenced county business.  "I've always tried to vote for what I thought was the best deal, and it's what I'll do this time," Johnson said.  Sammons, however, said he'll watch the bidding closely to ensure that he's treated fairly.  He won't be alone.  Patrick Turner, regional sales director for Aramark Corp., which also expects to bid on the contract, said: "On a level playing field, we have always been able to compete. But that's always been the question, whether it has always been a level playing field."  (Star-Telegram)

September 18, 2003
Visiting State District Judge Roger Towery has signed a $38.3 million judgment against Sarasota, Fla.-based Correctional Services Corp. in a lawsuit over the death of an 18-year-old man who died at a Mansfield boot camp in 2001.  The judgment, entered yesterday in Tarrant County's 236th District Court, includes $37.4 million in actual damages plus interest and $750,000 in punitive damages. In August, a Fort Worth jury awarded $35 million in actual damages and $5.1 million in punitive damages to the family of Bryan Alexander. The punitive damages were reduced in the judgment under Texas punitive damage caps.  According to the lawsuit, Alexander died on Jan. 9, 2001, from a penicillin-resistant form of pneumonia while participating in a six-month boot camp program as a condition of his misdemeanor probation. Alexander chose the boot camp over jail time. He died after his pleas for medical attention were ignored for days.  "This judgment sends a clear signal that the original verdict in this case was sound," says Jeff Kobs, a partner in Fort Worth's Kobs & Haney, who represented the Alexander family along with Fort Worth attorney Bill Lane.  During trial, Kobs and Lane argued that Alexander's medical condition should have triggered a response from the boot camp nurse or other employees of CSC. Evidence in the case showed that Alexander experienced difficulty breathing and began coughing up blood at least five days before his death. CSC eventually transferred Alexander to a local hospital, but he died less than 36 hours after being admitted.  "Bryan's was a senseless death that should never have happened," Lane says. "The Alexander family hopes this judgment will send a clear message to CSC and other for-profit correctional companies, and that no other families are forced to suffer a similar ordeal."  Under Texas law, CSC has 30 days to appeal the judgment, ask for a new trial, or pay the $38.3 million judgment. If CSC appeals the judgment, state law would delay the payment of the judgment if CSC posts a $25 million bond.  For more information on the judgment in this case, please contact attorney Jeff Kobs at 817.332.5956, attorney Bill Lane at 817.625.5570, or Bruce Vincent at 214.559.4630 or pager 888.361.8452.  (Yahoo Finance)

September 6, 2003
A state judge in Montague County is set to hear arguments today to finalize $40.1 million in damages that a jury awarded last month to the parents of an Arlington man who died while at the former Mansfield boot camp. Correctional Services Corp. and its nurse Knyvett Reyes were found responsible for the Jan. 9, 2001, death of Bryan Alexander. The 18-year-old probationer died of a rare lung infection after his complaints of feeling weak and coughing up blood went ignored for days. A Tarrant County jury decided that the Florida-based company, which contracted to run the camp, and its nurse should pay $35 million for Alexander's death, his suffering and his parents' loss. The jury then added $5.1 million in punitive damages, with CSC to pay most of the judgment. Attorneys for CSC and Reyes are expected to appeal the verdict. CSC Chief Executive James Slattery said his attorneys intend to "request that the court set aside the jury's verdict." "Mr. Alexander died from an extremely rare form of antibiotic-resistant pneumonia, which is not normally contracted outside of a hospital setting," he said in a statement last week. "Even the plaintiffs' experts testified that this condition would have been extremely difficult to diagnose." Plaintiffs' attorneys say CSC's position shows an "ongoing unwillingness to take responsibility" for Alexander's death. "The defendants said they plan to fight us tooth and nail," said Mark Haney, one of seven attorneys representing Alexander's parents, Rickey Alexander and Judy Schumpert. "They want to try and disregard the verdict that addressed their bad behavior," he said. "It is a slap in the face to the Alexander family and the jury's verdict." CSC's Fort Worth attorney, Vic Anderson, declined to comment on the case. Reyes' attorney, Michael Wallach, could not be reached to comment. CSC has $35 million in insurance to cover the jury award in Alexander's death. But the company's insurer has sued, saying it is not obligated to pay because Reyes was convicted last year of negligent homicide. That conviction is being appealed. Under Texas law, punitive damages in the Alexander case are limited to $750,000 for CSC and $100,000 for Reyes. The jury had set punitive damages at $5 million to be paid by CSC and $100,000 from Reyes. (Star-Telegram)

September 2, 2003
Jail operator Correctional Services Corp. on Friday said a Texas jury awarded plaintiffs $5.1 million in punitive damages in a wrongful death suit against the company and a former employee, but recovery is limited to $850,000 under Texas law.  The company said its primary liability insurance carrier has recently taken the not uncommon step of disclaiming coverage, but it believes the carrier has no legitimate basis for the decision and has retained counsel to enforce its rights under the policies.  (Yahoo Finance)

August 29, 2003
With no prior criminal record, the 18-year-old Arlington man hoped that the former Mansfield boot camp would set him straight after a drunken-driving arrest.  He chose the regimented, low-security corrections facility over jail time.  But a rare, penicillin-resistant form of pneumonia killed Bryan Alexander on Jan. 9, 2001, while he served his six-month sentence. His pleas for medical attention had been ignored for days.  "He wanted to get some discipline at the camp and a chance to get his GED. It turned out to be a death sentence for a DWI," said Charlie Smith, who represented the teen-ager in the criminal matter and his family in a civil lawsuit.  On Thursday, a Tarrant County jury added $5.1 million in punitive damages to its award Wednesday of $35 million in actual damages for Alexander's death, his suffering and his parents' mental anguish and loss of their son.  Jurors blamed the camp's nurse, Knyvett Reyes, and Florida-based Correctional Services Corp., which contracted to run the 370-bed facility.  CSC must pay $26 million of the judgment, Reyes $14.1 million. Reyes' attorney, Michael Wallach, and CSC's attorney, Vic Anderson, declined to comment.  The lawsuit brought by Alexander's parents, Rickey Alexander and Judy Schumpert, said Reyes and CSC failed to provide Alexander with adequate and timely medical care.  He had complained of feeling weak and coughing up blood days before he was taken to John Peter Smith Hospital in Fort Worth. Alexander was immediately placed in intensive care but died two days later.  The boot camp and residential drug-treatment programs at the Mansfield facility were closed six months after Alexander's death. CSC had been paid $2.9 million a year by the state to run the facility.  On Thursday, attorneys for the Alexander family asked the jury of five women and seven men to further punish CSC and Reyes to send a message to other correction facilities and nurses.  "You did listen to Bryan's pleas for help. Unfortunately for Bryan, you are 2 1/2 years too late," Bill Lane, one of the plaintiffs' attorneys, told the jury in closing arguments Thursday in the punitive-damage stage of the trial. "But you are not too late to send a message to this private corporation that we will not accept the lowest bidder or that the bottom line is worth more than a human life."  Attorneys for the defendants argued that their clients were unaware of the seriousness of Alexander's illness. Reyes testified that she treated Alexander for a cold, flu and strep throat based on her evaluation of his symptoms.  Fort Worth accountant L. Andrew McCartney said CSC is worth more than $50.8 million, based on recent financial reports filed with the Securities and Exchange Commission.  CSC has about $25 million in insurance coverage that could be used to cover the judgment, said Anderson, CSC's attorney.  "If the company is closed down, there are going to be a lot of people out of jobs," he said.  Reyes' attorney, Wallach, said: "I think we all know Knyvett Reyes is not a corporation. I would ask that you punish her no further."  (Fort Worth Star-Telegram)

August 28, 2003
A former nurse and a Florida-based private corrections company that operated the defunct Mansfield boot camp were responsible for the death of an 18-year-old inmate, a Tarrant County jury decided Wednesday.  The jury of five women and seven men ordered the nurse and company to pay $35 million for the death of Bryan Alexander, his suffering, and his parents' mental anguish and loss of companionship.  Alexander died of a rare penicillin-resistant form of pneumonia at John Peter Smith Hospital in Fort Worth, two days after being transported from the camp for probationers.  Arlington lawyer Charlie Smith, who represented Alexander in his criminal matter and the Alexander family in the wrongful-death lawsuit, said he was not surprised by the jury's verdict.  "This case was more like a homicide case than a wrongful-death lawsuit because of the way this young man died," said Smith, one of seven attorneys representing the Alexander family. "Bryan's family was hopeful that this jury would speak loud about the conduct of these defendants so it will not happen to another child in the same circumstances as Bryan Alexander."  The lawsuit asserted that Correctional Services Corp., and its nurse at the camp, Knyvett Reyes of Arlington, did not provide Alexander with adequate and timely medical care. Alexander had complained of feeling weak and was coughing up blood days before he was taken to JPS Hospital.  But Reyes testified during the seven-week trial that, based on her evaluation of his symptoms, she treated Alexander for a cold, flu and strep throat. Witnesses testified that Reyes thought the inmate was faking his illness.  Reyes' attorney, Michael Wallach, declined to comment after the jury's verdict. Correctional Services Corp.'s attorney, Vic Anderson, also declined to comment.  Attorneys for Alexander's parents, Rickey Alexander and Judy Schumpert, said Reyes' skepticism cost Alexander his life. He was serving a sentence at the facility for a drunken-driving conviction and had no prior criminal record, according to testimony.  Correctional Services Corp., which was paid about $2.9 million a year to run the camp, must pay 60 percent of the $35 million judgment, while Reyes was ordered to pay 40 percent.  The jury also decided that Reyes and Correctional Services Corp. acted with malice in ignoring Alexander's pleas for help, which means the defendants must pay punitive damages. Closing arguments are scheduled for today to determine punitive damages.  Fort Worth accountant L. Andrew McCartney said Correctional Services Corp. is worth more than $50.8 million, based on recent financial reports filed with the Securities and Exchange Commission.  "They are currently making a profit," he testified.  Reyes' financial condition was not brought up.  Plaintiffs' attorneys are seeking $40 million in punitive damages for the Alexander family.  Correctional Services Corp. has about $25 million in insurance coverage that could be used to cover the lawsuit judgment, said Anderson, the company's attorney.  "In this case, the plaintiffs are asking the jury to punish the company. If the jury punishes the company, they are probably going to be punishing the stockholders of this company," Anderson said.  (Fort Worth Star-Telegram)

August 28, 2003
A former nurse and a Florida-based private corrections company that operated a defunct Mansfield boot camp were responsible for the death of an 18-year-old inmate, a Tarrant County jury decided Wednesday.  The jury of five women and seven men ordered the nurse and company to pay $35 million for the death of Bryan Alexander, his suffering, and his parents' mental anguish and future loss of companionship.  Alexander died of a rare penicillin-resistant form of pneumonia at John Peter Smith Hospital in Fort Worth, two days after being transported from the camp for probationers.  Arlington lawyer Charlie Smith, who represented Alexander in his criminal case and the Alexander family in the wrongful-death lawsuit, said he was not surprised by the jury's verdict.  "This case was more like a homicide case than a wrongful-death lawsuit because of the way this young man died," said Smith, one of seven attorneys representing the Alexander family. "Bryan's family was hopeful that this jury would speak loud about the conduct of these defendants so it will not happen to another child in the same circumstances as Bryan Alexander."  The lawsuit asserted that Correctional Services Corp. and its nurse at the camp, Knyvett Reyes, failed to provide Alexander with adequate and timely medical care. Alexander had complained of weakness and was coughing up blood days before he was taken to JPS Hospital.  But Reyes testified during the seven-week trial that, based on her evaluation of his symptoms, she treated Alexander for a cold, flu and strep throat. Witnesses testified that Reyes thought the inmate was faking his illness.  Attorneys for Alexander's parents, Rickey Alexander and Judy Schumpert, said Reyes' skepticism cost Alexander his life. He was serving a sentence at the facility for a drunken-driving conviction and had no prior criminal record, according to testimony.  Correctional Services Corp., which was paid about $2.9 million a year to run the camp, must pay 60 percent of the $35 million judgment; Reyes was ordered to pay 40 percent.   (Fort Worth Star-Telegram)

August 27, 2003
Correctional Services Corporation today announced that a Tarrant County, Texas jury has returned a $35 million verdict against the Company and its former employee in the wrongful death suit by the parents and estate of Bryan Alexander. Mr. Alexander died of a rare penicillin-resistant form of pneumonia while incarcerated at the Tarrant County Community Correctional Facility, which was operated by the Company at the time. The jury will now be asked to consider whether punitive damages should also be awarded against the Company and/or its former employee.  (Yahoo Finance)

August 27, 2003
A Tarrant County jury is expected to continue deliberations today in the wrongful-death lawsuit in the case of an Arlington teen-ager who died while serving a sentence at the former Mansfield boot camp.  Bryan Alexander, 18, died of pneumonia at John Peter Smith Hospital on Jan. 9, 2001 -- days after he complained of feeling weak and coughing up blood. He had a rare penicillin-resistant infection, hospital tests later revealed.  Attorneys for his parents, Rickey Alexander and Judy Schumpert, said Florida-based Correctional Services Corp., the private company that operated the boot camp, and its nurse, Knyvett Reyes, ignored Bryan Alexander's pleas for medical attention and could have saved his life.  The attorneys are asking for at least $75 million for Alexander's death, his suffering and his parents' mental anguish.   (Fort Worth Star-Telegram)

August 26, 2003
A Tarrant County jury began deliberations Monday in the wrongful-death lawsuit in the case of an Arlington man who died while serving a drunken-driving sentence at the former Mansfield boot camp.  Bryan Alexander, 18, died of pneumonia at John Peter Smith Hospital on Jan. 9, 2001 -- days after he complained of feeling weak and coughing up blood. He had a rare penicillin-resistant infection, hospital tests later revealed.  Attorneys for his parents -- Rickey Alexander and Judy Schumpert -- said the Florida-based private company that operated the boot camp and its nurse, Knyvett Reyes, ignored his pleas for medical attention and could have saved his life.  "They don't believe they did anything wrong," said Jeff Kobs, one of seven attorneys representing the Alexander family. "No one has come to this courtroom to say they were sorry or regret what they did. I want you to tell these people they are responsible and what happened was wrong."  Alexander's parents are suing Reyes and Correctional Services Corp., which contracted to run the 370-bed facility for probationers and drug treatment. Plaintiffs' attorneys suggested an award of $75 million for Alexander's death, his suffering and his parents' mental anguish.  A jury of five women and seven men listened to nearly eight hours of closing arguments Monday in the trial that began July 7. They are expected to resume deliberations this morning.  The defendants' attorneys argued that Alexander was provided with adequate medical care and that he was the only one to blame for his death because he failed to provide the camp's nurse with enough information about his illness.  "It wasn't going to make any difference on the ultimate outcome if he had been seen by a doctor on Jan. 5," Reyes' attorney, Michael Wallach, said. "Alexander never proved he was coughing up blood until Jan. 7. He had every opportunity to bring nurse Reyes the proof."  Attorney Vic Anderson, who represents CSC, said the plaintiffs' witnesses were not credible because they were mostly former inmates at the boot camp, and he frequently called them "criminals."  Anderson also said that Alexander showed signs of having a cold or the flu but that he was not seriously ill until he was transported to JPS.  "We believe nurse Reyes did not think there was an extreme risk involved with Alexander," Anderson said. "She was treating him for strep throat."  Reyes was convicted of negligent homicide last year in Alexander's death and sentenced to four years' probation. But attorneys for the Alexander family could not present her conviction to jurors because the case is under appeal.  The county's 19 criminal court judges closed the boot camp in July 2001 amid an array of problems at the facility. Attorneys for the Alexander family are also suing the judges who oversaw the facility in 2000 and 2001 and the probation department.  Reyes surrendered her nursing license in 2001 during a state nursing board investigation.  CSC still has two contracts with Texas. The publicly traded company is paid about $7 million to run a halfway house in Fort Worth and an intermediate-sanction facility in Houston, state prison spokesman Larry Todd said.  Alexander's attorneys said a judgment in the lawsuit is important to prevent similar incidents at other facilities operated by CSC.  "We're talking about a for-profit corrections company that houses our youths. They do it for the money. And it's the bottom line they are concerned about, not about responsibility," said Bill Lane, one of the plaintiffs' attorneys. "It is wrong what happened to Bryan Alexander, and they should pay for what happened."   (Fort Worth Star-Telegram)

July 21, 2003
A Texas Rangers' investigation into the death of an inmate at the former Mansfield boot camp determined that the 18-year-old probationer had to take cold and flu pills for days before he was allowed to visit a nurse. Attorneys blamed a nurse's skepticism and poor staffing by a Florida-based private company that ran a Mansfield boot camp for the death of an inmate who had been serving a drunken-driving sentence at the facility.  The attorneys, who represent the parents of Bryan Alexander, made the accusations Thursday during opening statements of a wrongful death trial. Alexander, 18, of Arlington died Jan. 9, 2001, two days after being transferred to a Fort Worth hospital. He had a form of pneumonia that was resistant to penicillin. Plaintiffs' attorneys contend the camp's nurse and Correctional Services Corp., which contracted to run the camp for the county's judges and probation department, failed to provide Alexander with timely and adequate medical care.  "They watched him die," Charlie Smith said in opening statements. He is one of seven attorneys representing Alexander's parents, Rickey Alexander and Judy Schumpert.  Visiting State District Judge Roger Towery is presiding over the trial, and a five-woman, seven-man jury will decide the case.  The plaintiffs' attorneys contend Bryan Alexander tried to get medical attention as early as Dec. 31 but was not seen until Jan. 5. Alexander had been given over-the-counter medication to treat a cold or flu.  Alexander's parents are suing CSC and the camp's former nurse, Knyvett Reyes, who was hired by the company. Reyes was convicted of negligent homicide last year in Alexander's death. Attorneys on both sides are awaiting clarification from the 2nd Court of Appeals in Fort Worth on whether that conviction is final or under appeal.  Vic Anderson, an attorney for CSC, said Reyes acted appropriately in treating what she believed was the flu or strep throat and could not have known the severity of Alexander's illness.  "We do not deny the fact that Mr. Alexander was ill and began feeling bad sometime in late December or early January," Anderson said in opening statements. "But a lot of people at the facility were feeling bad," he said.  "There was an outbreak of flu. It was not an unusual thing for someone at the camp to say they are sick to get out of work or to get a trip to the hospital."  Alexander died two days after being taken to John Peter Smith Hospital in Fort Worth on Jan. 7, 2001. "Just because there is a death doesn't necessarily mean there is someone at fault," Anderson said.  Texas Rangers Sgt. Alvin Alexis testified that the boot camp had a policy of requiring probationers at the 370-bed Mansfield facility to take over-the-counter drugs for three days before they could request a visit to the camp's nurse.  Alexis said Alexander complained of coughing up blood but had to take cold and flu pills for three days and then tried for another three days to visit the camp's nurse. Alexis based his conclusions on CSC records and interviews with CSC employees and boot camp inmates.  Reyes' attorney, Michael Wallach, told jurors they should question the reliability of inmates' statements, even Alexander's.  "You will have to determine whether Bryan Alexander was a reliable historian of his own health problems," he said.  The civil lawsuit, which initially sought more than $700 million in damages, is expected to last more than a month, court officials said. Attorneys for Alexander's parents are not disclosing how much in damages they'll seek at the conclusion of the trial.  (Fort Worth Star Telegram)

July 14, 2003
Jury selection begins today in the wrongful death lawsuit filed by the parents of an 18-year-old Arlington man who died after becoming ill at a former Mansfield facility for probationers.  While serving a sentence for drunken driving, Bryan Alexander developed a rare lung infection and died Jan. 9, 2001, two days after being transferred to a Fort Worth hospital.  Alexander's parents, Rickey Alexander and Judy Schumpert, are suing Correctional Services Corp., the Florida-based private contractor that operated the camp, and its former nurse, Knyvett Reyes, who was convicted in Alexander's death last year.  The lawsuit, which initially sought $755 million, contends that the camp and its employees ignored warning signs of Alexander's failing health.  Attorneys for Correctional Services and Reyes did not return phone calls Friday.  The lawsuit may help prevent other inmates' medical concerns from being ignored, attorneys for Alexander's parents say.  Last year, Reyes, the camp's former nurse, was sentenced to two years in jail, but a probationary sentence was imposed in lieu of jail time. She was also ordered to pay $10,939.74 in restitution. The attorneys for the state and for Reyes negotiated the sentence.  Reyes' attorney, Jack Strickland, is trying to appeal the conviction. But the special prosecutor in the case is fighting the request, meaning that Reyes' conviction can be used as evidence in the civil case, attorneys say.  Plaintiff attorneys said they will focus on Reyes' actions in Alexander's death and how the private contractor limited inmates' access to medical attention.  The Tarrant County Medical Examiner's Office ruled that Alexander died of pneumonia caused by an antibiotic-resistant infection. Doctors at John Peter Smith Hospital in Fort Worth could not detect and treat the infection in time to save his life.  Six months after Alexander's death, the county's 19 criminal-court judges voted to close the boot camp and residential drug-treatment programs at the 370-bed facility. The judges also voted to end the county's $2.9 million annual contract with Correctional Services Corp.  (Star-Telegram)

January 22, 2003
A former Mansfield boot camp nurse convicted of negligent homicide in the 2001 death of an inmate is appealing and asking for a new trial.  Knyvett Reyes, 36, was sentenced in August to four years of community supervision for the death of boot camp probationer Bryan Alexander, 18, of Arlington. Reyes struck a deal with prosecutors to avoid serving two years in state jail.  The judge who presided over the non-jury trial in June found that Reyes failed to provide timely and adequate medical care to the teen-ager, who died of a rare lung infection that was resistant to antibiotics.  Alexander's parents are suing Reyes, the boot camp's doctor and a Florida-based private contractor that ran the facility. The suit contends that Alexander's pleas for medical help were ignored and his death could have been prevented.  The civil case is scheduled to begin July 7 in Judge Tom Lowe's 236th District Court.  (Star_Telegram)

December 31, 2002
Attorneys for parents of an 18-year old who died after falling ill at a Mansfield boot camp filed a federal lawsuit Tuesday against Tarrant County and its 19 judges who managed the correctional center.  The lawsuit contends that the judges who supervised the Tarrant County Community Correctional Facility failed to ensure that its staff provided proper medical care for Bryan Alexander, 18, of Arlington.  The boot camp's former nurse, Knyvett Reyes, was sentenced in August to four years of community supervision.  She was convicted of negligent homicide in Alexander's death for failing to provide the teen-ager with timely medical care.  A $755 million wrongful death lawsuit filed by Alexander's family is pending.  (Star-Telegram)

August 31, 2002
FORT WORTH - Former Mansfield boot camp nurse Knyvett Reyes was sentenced Friday to four years community supervision for negligent homicide and ordered to pay restitution to Bryan Alexander's family. Alexander, an 18-year-old probationer at the boot camp, died in 2001 of a lung infection that led to pneumonia after leaving her care. During her trial, the prosecution accused Reyes of failing to provide adequate and timely attention. Reyes was sentenced to two years in jail, but the probationary sentence was imposed in lieu of jail time. Reyes was also ordered to pay $10,939.74 in restitution. The attorneys for the state and Reyes negotiated the sentence. Alexander, who was in the boot camp because of a drunken-driving conviction, died after being taken from the camp to John Peter Smith Hospital in Fort Worth. Reyes is also barred from performing any nursing duties involving direct patient care during her probation. She is working as a hospital clerk. Barring an appeal, criminal proceedings are now concluded. But family members have filed a $755 million wrongful death civil lawsuit. The family two weeks ago moved to add Tarrant County's 19 criminal judge to the suit. (Star-telegram)

June 29, 2002
A nurse accused in the death of a probationer at the former Mansfield boot camp was convicted Friday of negligent homicide. Knyvett Reyes, 36, of Arlington, faces up to two years in state jail in the death of 18-year-old Bryan Alexander, a probationer at the camp. "It's kind of difficult to feel sorry for nurse Reyes because she didn't show any empathy for Bryan," the teen's father, Rickey Alexander, said outside the courtroom. "The important thing for us was we didn't want her in a position where she could do the same thing to some other person." "Bryan Alexander died as a result of being ignored," special prosecutor Bill Turner said during closing arguments. A pending $755 million wrongful death lawsuit in Alexander's death kept the courtroom packed throughout Reyes' two-week trial. Alexander's parents are suing Florida-based Correctional Services Corp., the private company that ran the 370-bed Mansfield facility for probationers. (The Star-Telegram)

June 28, 2002
A former boot camp nurse thought an inmate who died after complaining of coughing up blood had a cold or strep throat, she testified Thursday. Knyvett Reyes, 36, of Arlington, is being tried on charges of manslaughter and negligent homicide in the death of Bryan Alexander, a probationer at the Mansfield camp. Prosecutors contend Reyes failed to provide Alexander with adequate and timely medical attention. Witnesses for the prosecution have said Reyes was skeptical of inmates' illnesses, and that she did not provide physicians with enough information to detect Alexander's infection. During Reyes' cross-examination, special prosecutor Bill Turner accused her of altering Alexander's medical records, ignoring his complaints and failing to take some vital signs that could have helped doctors save the teen-ager's life. Turner accused Reyes of creating records after Alexander died to help in her defense. Original boot camp records and inmate's files have not been located, he said. (The Star-Telegram)

June 25, 2002
A Colorado prison warden testified Monday that a Mansfield boot camp nurse could not have known an inmate under her care had a fatal illness based on his written request for medical treatment. The nurse, Knyvett Jane Reyes, is on trial on negligent homicide and manslaughter charges in the death of 18-year-old Bryan Alexander, a probationer at the camp who medical examiners determined died of a form of pneumonia. Prosecutors have argued that Reyes did not thoroughly examine Alexander. They contended she should have taken several vital signs, such as his blood pressure and heart rate, which would have revealed a rare infection that eventually caused his death Jan. 9. An official with the state nurse licensing agency testified last week that Reyes should have sent Alexander to a doctor Jan. 5. Alexander was taken to the hospital Jan. 7 and died two days later. Special prosecutor Lindsey Roberts said Alexander's weight loss - about 25 pounds during his two months at the camp - and claims that he was coughing up blood should have been red flags. Roberts said Alexander was 6 feet tall and weighed 150 pounds when he died. (The Star-Telegram)

September 27, 2001
The boy knew rage. A troublemaking, dope-smoking misfit, "Brad" was in and out of trouble with the law, and more in than out. He ran away from home, stayed out all night, stole. Help came in the form of confinement to a juvenile "boot camp" run by Correctional Services Corp., a private company that manages two Dallas County juvenile facilities. Sent to CSC's program for emotionally disturbed youths in Southern Dallas, Brad's condition quickly deteriorated. Privately, the boy's group counselor told his grandmother, "I am not qualified. I do not have the education. He needs more than I can give him." Those words, from one of CSC's own employees, might be used to sum up the company's long and troubled history of running juvenile and other jail facilities here and nationwide with what one critic calls a "Costco" approach to juvenile treatment. It is a track record that includes chilling episodes of sexual abuse, gross mismanagement and, in one Tarrant County case, the death of an 18-year-old. In the past decade, in New York, Florida and Texas, local authorities and the federal government have canceled contracts with CSC, following a host of complaints from former CSC inmates and their families. One top Texas government official in the juvenile justice system, who declined to be named, says CSC has a two-pronged pitch when it sells its services. First, it promises much lower costs. The Texas Youth Commission, for instance, budgets $129 per day per juvenile at its facilities, compared with the $80 or $90 a day CSC charges. In other instances, CSC pledges to help counties make money. At CSC boot camps in North Texas, drill instructors are hired at $7.46 an hour. Their training consists of observing other instructors for a week, before being put to work. "There were a whole lot of people hired to do jobs they didn't know how to do," says one educator who taught at the facility, speaking on the condition that she not be identified. She worked for another company hired by the county to provide schooling at the CSC facility but quit after six months because she believed she and her staff, who went for weeks without offices or phones, were ill-equipped to handle their responsibilities. One fresh-out-of-college education major, she recalls, was handed the responsibility of developing a special education program. After the July 1999 attack on his grandmother, Brad was taken to the Dallas County juvenile detention center. A month later, state District Judge Hal Gaither committed him to the CSC boot camp. Initially, his grandmother welcomed the development. She believed the help she had sought had finally arrived. But even behind bars he continued to misbehave and spent countless hours, sometimes shackled and handcuffed, seated on a concrete bench in a small confinement room that reeked of urine. Brad, like many of his peers, did not meet with an individual counselor, family counselor or psychiatrist for months. When he did see a doctor, the juvenile simply told the psychiatrist to halt his prescribed drugs, and the physician agreed, according to records. The lack of promised counseling wasn't unique to Brad's case. Attorney Craig Sargent represented a mentally retarded client sent to CSC's unit for emotionally disturbed kids. His client, he says, was also denied the family counseling he had been promised. At a hearing to determine whether the boy should be sent to a Texas Youth Commission facility, Sargent grilled a CSC drill instructor and program director Brown. The instructor testified that despite working with the youth every day, she had not realized he was mentally handicapped. "That would be important to know when you're addressing someone as far as their mental capacity and their ability to follow your directive, if they have any defect. Would you agree with me?" Sargent asked. "Yes, sir," the employee replied. For four months, CSC had been receiving $82 a day to treat the boy, Sargent notes. "It pissed me off as a taxpayer," he recalls. In the late '90s, the company ran into similar problems in Florida. Dade County officials terminated contracts when they discovered CSC had deliberately kept delinquents beyond their release dates to pocket extra money. The local school district paid the company to teach kids in its custody; CSC was accused of collecting money for days when it provided no schooling. "They are a completely greedy company. They have a Costco approach to meaningful intervention," says Marie Osborne, an assistant public defender in Dade County who went to court to get 11 of her indigent clients removed from a CSC facility. The Florida Department of Juvenile Justice conducted a study of the facility and found a lack of training, inadequate background checks on employees and inadequate food service. Employees had even helped stage fights between 13- and 14-year-olds while their peers watched and referred to these bloody scrabbles as "The Main Event" in memos, according to CSC employees' testimonies. The lawsuits against CSC are mounting to the point analysts say that they are threatening the corporate bottom line. Once a Wall Street darling, CSC has fallen on hard times. (Dallas Observer)

July 13, 2001
Five former Mansfield boot camp inmates filed a civil lawsuit Thursday, alleging that they were sexually harassed or given inadequate medical care while housed there.  Two female plaintiffs allege that a male guard fondled them and repeatedly made sexually suggestive comments.  Three former male inmates allege that they suffered long-term physical problems after failing to receive prompt and adequate medical attention.  Arlington attorney Howard Rosenstein, who filed the suit Thursday, represented three female former boot camp inmates who won a $2.8 million award in a sexual harassment suit against Correctional Services Corp. in March.  "Again, we find ourselves in the situation where, due to the absence of enforcement of a security policy at CSC, instructors and guards were allowed to isolate, torment and sexually abuse these women," Mr. Rosenstein said.  The suit is the latest in a series of legal battles facing the company, which operates more than a dozen facilities in Texas and runs facilities in 18 states.  A $ 755 million lawsuit alleging inadequate medical care was filed by the parents of Bryan Alexander, who died Jan. 9 from pneumonia while an inmate at the boot camp.  The company also faces a civil lawsuit by a former operations manager who alleges that he was improperly fired for reporting staffing shortages.  The company has repeatedly denied the allegations in those cases.  (The Dallas Morning News)  

June 21, 2001
A panel of judges voted unanimously Wednesday to close the Mansfield boot camp and residential drug treatment facility July 6 and reopen it as a day treatment program for probationers.  The Board of Criminal Judges, with 11 of its 19 members in attendance, decided to move up the closure date from Aug. 31.  A contract with Florida-based Correctional Services Corp. to operate the 370-bed facility ends Aug. 31, but the company has agreed to end its obligations sooner.  The judges voted this year not to renew the contract with Correctional Services Corp.  The company came under scrutiny after some female inmates were sexually assaulted by employees and because of questions about the quality of health care for inmates.  Probationer Bryan Alexander, 18, of Arlington died of pneumonia Jan. 9, two days after being transported to a Fort Worth hospital.  Alexander's parents have filed a wrongful death lawsuit against the nurse who treated him, the company and others.  (The Fort Worth Star-Telegram)

May 19, 2001
Two Tarrant County judges pulled about a dozen probationers from drug-rehabilitation programs at the Mansfield boot camp facility Thursday after reports that a guard had consensual sex with an inmate.  Boot camp administrator Randy Tate declined to discuss details of the allegations, other than saying that the reports are being investigated and that the guard has been suspended.  State District Judges Jamie Cummings and Sharen Wilson removed probationers from the substance-abuse treatment program at the facility Thursday after officials notified the county's probation department of the reports.  (Arlington Morning News)

May 17, 2001
A privately operated prison that was the subject of a Texas Rangers investigation over prisoners' treatment will now be shuttered.  The 370-bed Tarrant Community Corrections Facility will close in less than three months due to a $2.8 million budget shortfall.  Earlier this year, the judges voted to not renew a contract with Florida-based Correctional Services Corp. to operate the facility.  The company, which has run the center since 1992, has been criticized because of escapes, sexual assaults by employees and questions about the health care inmates have received.  Earlier this month, a Tarrant County grand jury indicted a nurse who provided medical treatment for a boot camp probationer until two days before he died of pneumonia.  (AP) 

May 4, 2001
Rick Alexander, hat clutched in hand, sat for nearly 50 minutes as a lawyer defended the woman the Arlington resident is convinced helped kill his 18-year-old son.  Mr. Alexander listened intently as Fort Worth attorney Jack V. Strickland lambasted the Tarrant County grand jury's indictment on charges of manslaughter and negligent homicide against Knyvett Jane Reyes, a nurse at the Mansfield boot camp where Bryan Alexander was an inmate.  " I don't think that Nurse Reyes is a victim," Mr. Alexander said in a hallway at the Tarrant County Justice Center.  "Bryan told me he filled out three requests, not to see the doctor, but to go to the hospital.  But he said, ' She's real mean and she doesn't like me. ' He told me that himself."  Bryan Alexander died Jan. 9 at John Peter Smith Hospital in Fort Worth.  He was sentenced to the camp for assault and drunken driving.  The teen filed a written request for medical attention Jan. 4.  Camp officials contend that he was seen by Ms. Reyes the next day and given antibiotics, but the teen was required to continue a workout regimen through Jan. 6.  James Slattery, chief executive officer of Sarasota, Fla.-based Correctional Services Corp., was out of town Thursday and was unavailable for comment on the pending court case.  (Arlington Morning Star)

May 4, 2001
A 35-year-old nurse at the Mansfield boot camp was indicted Thursday on charges of manslaughter and negligent homicide in connection with the death of an 18-year-old inmate.  The indictment alleges that Knyvett Jane Reyes recklessly and negligently caused the death of Bryan Alexander of Arlington by failing to adequately assess his condition, report his illness and provide adequate care at the Tarrant County Community Correctional Facility.  The two-page indictment states that Ms. Reyes failed to adequately assess and evaluate Mr. Alexander's medical status, failed to accurately report his status to the boot camp's attending physician, and failed to stabilize Mr. Alexander's medical condition and prevent complications.  The indictment also says Ms. Reyes did not order bed rest, and did not prohibit strenuous physical exertion or transfer Mr. Alexander to the hospital in a timely manner.  Florida-based Correctional Services Corp. has operated the Mansfield facility since 1992.  The boot camp is part of the Tarrant County Community Correctional Facility.  (Arlington Morning News)

May 4, 2001
The parents of a Mansfield boot camp inmate, who died of pneumonia days after complaining of being ill, filed a $755 million wrongful death lawsuit Friday against the company that runs the camp and others.  Bryan Alexander, 18, of Arlington, died Jan. 9, two days after being transferred from the camp to Fort Worth's John Peter Smith Hospital.  The lawsuit contends the camp and its employees ignored signs of Alexander's "falling health" and were grossly negligent in providing medical treatment.  Defendants in the lawsuit are Correctional Services Corp., a private, Florida-based company that runs the camp; CSC attorney Tony Schaffer; the Tarrant County Community and Corrections Department; CSC nurse Knyvett Reyes; and Dr. Samuel Lee, who was employed by the company.  Reyes was indicated Thursday on a charge of manslaughter and negligent homicide in Alexander's death.  An Austin administration law judge, who suspended Reyes' nursing license in March, wrote that Alexander "would most likely have been" cured if his illness was diagnosed earlier and treated with other antibiotics.  In February, three former inmates were awarded $2.8 million by a Tarrant County judge for sexual harassment the women suffered at the facility.  (Star-Telegram)

April 20, 2001
Members of Tarrant County's judiciary have voted to stop sending probationers to the Mansfield boot camp out of concerns that there won't be enough money to keep the camp open long enough for the next platoon to graduate.  Under the contract with Florida-based Correctional Services Corp., the county pays $21.94 a day per bed, regardless of whether the beds are occupied. This arrangement will continue until the contract expires Sept. 1.  The judges voted in February to manage the facility after the private contractor's contract expires in September.  Allegations of sexual harassment by guards and the death of a probationer in January have plagued the boot camp.  (The Fort Worth Star-Telegram)

April 6, 2001
A Tarrant County grand jury will decide whether to indict officials at the Mansfield boot camp in connection with the death of a former inmate, a special prosecutor said Thursday.  Grand jurors will hear evidence April 25 from witnesses and the Texas Ranger's investigation into the death of 18-year-old Bryan Alexander of Arlington, who was an inmate at the boot camp, also known as the Tarrant County Community Correctional Facility.  Mr. Smith has notified Correctional Services Corp., which has run the boot camp since it opened in1992, that the Alexander family may file a civil lawsuit.  A Correctional Services Corp., official said Thursday that a grand jury was the proper venue for consideration of the investigation.  The Texas State Board of Nurses Examiners on March 2 indefinitely suspended the license of Knyvett Jane Reyes, the boot camp nurse who provided medical care to the teenager.  Two other inmates have alleged that they received inadequate medical care at the camp, charges facility officials have denied.  The Board of Criminal Court Judges voted Feb. 21 to assume management of the 370-bed facility when Correctional Services' operating contract ends Aug. 31.  On March 5, a Tarrant County judge awarded $2.8 million in damages to three female former inmates who sued Correctional Services Corp. and a former drill instructor for sexual harassment.  (The Dallas Morning News)

March 21, 2001
A Tarrant County criminal justice task force has recommended that the Mansfield boot camp program be discontinued and its beds used for housing probation violators.  If approved, the program would occupy the 120 beds currently used for the boot camp. (Dallas Morning News, March 21, 2001)

March 6, 2001
Bryan Alexander's medical treatment while incarcerated at the Mansfield boot camp was so poor that one official compared it to "modern day torture," and the nurse supervising him has her license temporarily suspended. Knyvett Jane Reyes' nursing license by the Texas State Board of Nurse Examiners was suspended Feb. 13, according to documents released Monday by State Sen. Chris Harris' office. Mr. Alexander died Jan. 9 at John Peter Smith Hospital of antibiotic-resistant pneumonia caused by a staphylococcus inflection. Charles Smith, attorney for Rick Alexander, Bryan Alexander's father, said the nurse's suspension validates his client's claims. "This is what we've been saying all along, that medical service was substandard," he said. On Jan. 3, Mr. Alexander first notified medical staff through a locked drop box that he was not feeling well. Inmates at the boot camp submit sick forms into a locked box. In the case of Mr. Alexander, his form was not read until Jan. 4.Documents show Mr. Alexander was not assesses by Ms. Reyes until Jan.5, two days after he filled out a report detailing his complaints of flu-like symptoms. "I caught the flu or something from somebody. My whole body is sore. It hurts real bad when I cough," Mr. Alexander wrote on Jan. 3. "My nose gets closed up to where I can't even breathe and the pills I've been taking are not working. Mr. Reyes, who had been on Christmas vacation, returned to work Jan. 3. According to the drill instructor's testimony, Ms. Reyes was aware of the ailing teen's symptoms Jan. 4. On Jan. 5, he filled out another form. According to registered nurse carol Dobrich, an independent expert hired by the board to review the case, the treatment of Mr. Alexander, who died at John Peter Smith Hospital on Jan. 9, amounted to "modern day torture." "By 2 p.m. on January 5th, once she knew Bryan Alexander had as temperature of 101, and a red, sore throat, respondent knew he had an infection," according to Ms. Dobrich's testimony, outline in the order suspending the license. "And her failure to have him seen by a doctor or send him immediately to the emergency room was an inappropriate nursing response. (Arlington Morning News)

March 1, 2001
Three women who allege they were sexually harassed while inmates at the Mansfield boot camp asked a state judge Wednesday for up to $4 million in damages. "If this court does not dress down and discipline this attitude every women, everyone else, is subject to the same consideration these women got," Brice Cottongame, the attorney representing the three women, said in closing arguments. But the attorney for Correctional Services Corp., the Florida-based company that operates the boot camp, said employees, not the company, are at fault. the civil trail's final day included testimony from a Correctional Services executive, who refuted earlier testimony from a state senator. On Wednesday, Mr. Rau suggested that the senator misinterpreted a comment he made. "I did not make any statement like that," Mr. Rau said. "There was point in the conversation where I said I would like to get all the facts and hear both sides of the story. "The senator said, "What could the other side of the story be?' which is when the statement was made. That is the other side of the story." "We stand of Senator Harris' credibility," Mr. Cottongame said. "Sen. Harris has no ax to grind, no interest in this lawsuit." (Arlington Morning News)

February 27, 2001
In the latter dated Jan. 30, 2000 - 11 days after Kari Echels Chattha graduated from the boot camp - she wrote to Joseph Fonville telling him she missed him and she was worried about him. She used the term of endearment "honey." Tony Schaffer, an attorney representing Correctional Services Corp., which runs the boot camp, said Mrs. Chattha 's letter proves she was involved romantically with Mr. Fonville. Mrs. Chattha, 19, and two other plaintiffs, Karen fowler, 21, and Annawaynette Creek, 33 allege in their suit they were fondled and sexually harassed by boot camp workers during their incarceration at the Mansfield boot camp over a seven-month period in 1999. Ms. Fowler and Ms. Creek also are suing former boot camp maintenance worker Michael Zahn. Fred Bagely, a former vice president of CSC, testified in a videotaped deposition that sexual harassment was a problem at the Mansfield Facility. he initially learned of the allegations made by Mrs. Chattha, Ms. Fowler and Ms. Creek in 1999. he said. (Arlington Morning News)

February 26, 2001
The county's 19 criminal court judges voted unanimously last week to stop using a private contractor at the Tarrant County Community Corrections Facility, which houses the boot camp and three substance abuse programs. Three former female inmates are suing Florida-based Correctional Services Corp., alleging sexual abuse at the 370-bed facility. The company's contract expires Sept. 1. The lawsuit's allegations are among recent criticisms of the facility. Accusations of sexual misconduct by male guards against female inmates have plagued the camp since it opened in 1992. The facility has also endured accusations of the staff shortages and questions of proper medical care. Bryan Alexander, 18, a boot camp inmate, died of pneumonia Jan. 9. Relatives allege he didn't receive timely medical care. "I don't think any of us want to see CSC or any private company run this camp any longer," Judge Gallagher said last week. State Sen. Chris Harris, R-Arlington, who testified against Correctional Services Corp. on Friday in civil trail, said the company's problems may be a result of paying many of its employees near the minimum wage. Last year, 50 of 77 employees at the facility were paid less than $17,000 per year, according to company records. "They are in business of making money," Harris said. "As result, they are out there cutting corners." Attorneys for the plaintiffs have alleged that a corporate culture exists at the company. On Friday, Harris testified that a company executive vice president told him in a telephone conversation that the women at the boot camp "got what they wanted." He said the company "seemed to have no concern about what happened to the women." According to the company's contract, a female inmate cannot be alone with a male guard unless a female guard is present. Testimony during the first three days suggested that staff shortages prevented the company from following its policy of female inmate supervision, which is part of its contract with the county's probation department. "They are allowing employees to work 16-hour shifts, and sometimes more than that," Harris said outside the court after his testimony Friday. "It obviously came down to the corporate bottom line." (Star-Telegram)

February 23 , 2001
The private company that operates the Mansfield boot camp filed false reports about staffing hours to Tarrant County officials, the facility's former manager testified Thursday. John Renfroe, a former U.S. Army lieutenant colonel who worked for the Florida-based Correctional Services Corp. between June 1994 and June 2000, testified that he had reported the practice to his supervisors since 1995. "The data that had been in the monthly reports indicated that CSC as meeting or exceeding contract hour requirements," said Mr. Renfroe, a witness in a civil trail in which three women are suing the company because of sexual harassment at the facility. "If you did the math, what was being reported included extraneous, inappropriate figures." (Arlington Morning News)

February 22, 2001
Tarrant  County criminal judges agreed Wednesday to assume management of the Mansfield boot camp when a contract with Correctional Services Corp. ends in August. the 19-member Board of Criminal Judges cited a $2.5 million budget shortfall in its decision not to renew the private company's contract. The facility could close by Sept. 1 if the legislature does not approve additional funding, the judges said. Recent controversies - including the death of an inmate, the hospitalization of two others and allegations of sexual exploitation of female inmates -  were factors in the decision. State Sen. Chris Harris, R-Fort Worth, who has strongly criticized the boot camp's operation, praised the judges' decision and said he will ask other state agencies funding. "I think the judges are the ones who are accountable on that since they're the ones with the oversight," Mr. Harris said. "I think this is smartest thin they can do." (Dallas Morning News)

February 22, 2001
The private company that runs the Mansfield Boot Camp was negligent in allowing two former workers to sexually harass women at the facility. an attorney for the three former inmates said in court Wednesday. An attorney for Florida-based Correctional Services corp. apologized for the incidents and defended the company's record of quality management. Ms. Fowler and Ms. Creek allege former maintenance worker Michael Zahn sexually harassed and exploited them during their several month stays in 1999 at the boot camp. Mrs. Chattha alleges Joseph Fonville forced her to participate in improper sexual activity during her 1999 stay. In July, Mr. Zahn received two years' probation after he pleaded guilty to two counts of official oppression in connection with both incidents. "The attitude of this corporate defendant will outrage you."  (Arlington Morning News)

February 22, 2001
As compliance officer at the Mansfield boot camp, John Renfore spent six years faulting the private contractor that runs the facility, citing staff shortages and a failure to protect female inmates from sexual abuse. That testimony Thursday before 141st District Court Judge Paul Enlow bolstered the case of the three former female inmates who are suing Florida-based Correctional Services Corp., which runs 370-bed facility for probationers. The women assaults contend CSC employees sexually abused then while they were serving sentences at the Tarrant County Community Corrections facility in Mansfield. On Thursday, Renfore said he outlined staffing shortages and inadequate supervision of female inmates in numerous memos that he sent to CSC officials and his bosses with Tarrant County Community Corrections Department. those complaints began in 1995 and continued until the probation department fired him in June, he said. Fort Worth lawyer W. Brice Cottongame, who is representing the women, said the incidents were caused by a corporate culture in CSC that does not protect female inmates and ignores their complaints of abuse. Sherry Johnson, who worked as a drill instructor at the camp last year, said grievances filed by inmates are often thrown away or shredded by CSC supervisors. She also said CSC employees retaliate against inmates who file grievances. "They would read them out loud and laugh, then throw them in the trash," she said. "They would be disregarded for misspelling a CSC employee's name." (Star-Telegram)

February 07, 2001
The former operations manager of a Mansfield boot camp filed a lawsuit Tuesday charging he was unjustly fired after pointing out deficiencies at the camp. Mr. Renfore says his relationship with Correctional Services and Ms. Calaway soured 1999 after he began filing critical reports with boot camp administrators. The reports said that because of staff shortages, the company was not keeping the facility properly cleaned and maintained, and not adequately supervising its staff and did not have enough drill staff on duty to properly supervise probationers. 
(Arlington Morning News).

January 23, 2001
The Texas Rangers agreed Wednesday to act on a local judge's request for an independent investigation into the death of an 18-yeat old former Mansfield inmate. Mr. Harris, who called for wholesale changes at the boot camp five months ago in the wake of the alleged sexual abuse of three former inmates. since the Mr. Alexander's death, various judges have removes more the 50 of the camp's 120 inmates. (Arlington Morning News)

December 14, 2000
A former employee of the private company that operates a North Texas correctional facility is denying a lawsuit's claims that female inmates were sexually harassed. Zahn, in deposition released this week, said his behavior was limited to peeping through an attic vent while one of the women performed unsolicited sexual acts. (Arlington Morning News)

October 2, 2000
Three teenagers ran from security officers and scaled a seven foot fence in a recreation yard at the minimum-security center for non-violent offenders. (Fort Worth Star-Telegram, Oct.6, 2000)

January 16, 2000
Accusations that neglect caused the death of an inmate at a Mansfield boot camp last week may slam the door on a million-dollar deal for Tarrant County to lease its long-shuttered Cold Springs Correctional Facility, officials said Tuesday. The contract to operate the 384-bed Cold Springs facility for state inmates. After months of negotiations and some last minute changes, the contract, signed by CSC officials, was received by county officials Tuesday.  But all five members of Commissioners Court and the sheriff now say they won't approve it unless the investigation into the death last week of 18-year old Bryan D. Alexander -- whose family says boot officials failed to get him proper medical care for pneumonia -- shows that CSC was not at fault. County officials' concerns about contracting with CSC for new prisoners were heightened last week when several district judges began pulling offenders out of the facility after Alexander died. The boot camp has gone through a year of turmoil, including escapes and allegations of drill instructors sexually assaulting female inmates, and has struggled with staffing. Similar issues plagued the facility in the mid-1990's, said James Slattery. Commissioners Dionne Bagsby and Marti Vanravenswaay voted against the CSC contract last year, saying they were concerned about problems at the boot camp. (Star-Telegram)

Colorado County Juvenile Facility
Eagle Lake, Texas
Correctional Services Corporation

February 7, 2006 The Victoria Advocate
Colorado County officials are expected to decide today if the county will close the Eagle Lake Juvenile Detention Facility Boot Camp. The decision will be made during a special commissioners court meeting at 9 a.m. The only item on the agenda is to consider authorizing County Judge Al Jamison to close operation of the boot camp. The county has been operating the facility since Sept. 1 after the previous operator, Florida-based Correction Services Corporation, notified the county it would end its contract on Aug. 31. The court conducted a six-month review, Jamison said in a Monday phone interview. "We're losing money on the facility and I would like to shut it down and quit the bleeding."

September 5, 2002
A juvenile sent to a military-style correctional boot camp in Eagle Lake died Saturday from what officials there said was a "clear case of suicide." Police in Eagle Lake were contacted after the young man's death and are conducting an investigation, MacIntyre said. They could not be reached for comment Sunday. The Colorado County facility, operated by the Sarasota, Fla.-based Youth Services International, is part of a growing trend of private correctional centers. (The Houston Chronicle)  

Community House Arrest Program 
Wichita County
September 20, 2003
Since the Community House Arrest Program started six months ago in Wichita County, the program has led to a hotbed of controversy, confusion and hard feelings.  But, for better or worse, CHAP is flat-lining this month.  The program, designed to monitor people charged with non-violent crimes with electronic ankle bracelets until they are sentenced or charges are dropped, is expected to shut down by Oct. 1, program administrators said Thursday.  "Although the commissioners, several judges and many in the Sheriff's Department are behind the concept of the house arrest and its potential benefits, there can be no such program without a concerted effort from the staff of the District Attorney's Office,"  (Times Record News)

Cornell Companies
(bought by GEO Group)
Houston, Texas
How The Recession Hurts Private Prisons Nancy Cook, Newsweek June 30, 2010


October 25, 2011 AP
The management company that formerly ran a Rhode Island prison is suing the facility's governing body, saying it is owed more than $671,000, according to a complaint filed in federal court. In a lawsuit filed Monday in U.S. District Court in Providence, Cornell Corrections of Rhode Island, Inc. says the corporation running the Donald W. Wyatt Detention Facility in Central Falls still owes money it agreed to pay the firm in 2008. The prison is run by the Central Falls Detention Facility Corporation, a quasi-public agency. Cornell Corrections operated Wyatt from its opening in 1993 to July 31, 2007, when the corporation took over, according to a 2009 report on the facility. Cornell Corrections says it reached a deal in 2008 with the corporation over the amount of money it was owed under an earlier agreement. The lawsuit says Wyatt's governing board still hasn't paid. The suit seeks $671,808, plus interest, costs and attorneys' fees. The corporation stopped making full payments to Cornell Corrections in 2006, according to a report released last month by former R.I. Auditor General Ernest A. Almonte. As of August 2007, the corporation owed Cornell Corrections more than $3.9 million, Almonte's report found. The 776-bed facility houses medium- and maximum-security federal detainees awaiting trial or transfer to federal Bureau of Prisons facilities. It lost a contract to house federal immigration detainees after one died in its custody in 2008. The jail has been beset by financial problems in recent years, having lost $6.2 million and taken on $3.5 million in additional debt from 2007 to 2009, Almonte's report said. The city of Central Falls once banked on revenue from the prison, but hasn't been paid in three years. The city filed for bankruptcy earlier this year. Attorneys for Cornell Corrections and the corporation did not immediately return messages on Tuesday.

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.

August 17, 2010 Market Watch
The GEO Group, Inc. (GEO 22.20, -0.17, -0.76%) ("GEO") announced today the final results of the elections made by former stockholders of Cornell Companies, Inc. (NYSE: CRN) ("Cornell") as to the form of merger consideration they wish to receive in connection with the acquisition of Cornell by GEO. GEO closed the acquisition on August 12, 2010, after Cornell stockholders approved the transaction at a special meeting and GEO shareholders approved the issuance of shares of GEO common stock issuable as merger consideration at a special meeting.

August 12, 2010 AP
Private prison operator Geo Group Inc. on Thursday disclosed preliminary results of a vote by shareholders of Cornell Companies Inc. on that company's proposed sale to Geo Group. In all, holders of some 15.2 million shares of Cornell common stock voted on Wednesday on how they would like to receive their payout once the company is sold. Holders of about 54.5 percent of the shares elected to receive Geo common stock; 21.5 percent want cash. Another 24 percent didn't make a valid election, Geo Group said. Under the terms of the deal, Cornell shareholders had two options: Receive 1.3 shares of Geo common stock for each Cornell share held, or cash equal to the market value of one Geo share plus $6 or the fair market value of 1.3 shares of Geo common stock, whichever is greater.

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

June 22, 2010 DOJ Press Release
ROBERT B. SURLES, 64, of Chicago, Illinois, was sentenced today by United States District Judge Clarence Cooper to federal prison on charges of conspiracy and wire fraud for his part in a scheme to defraud the operator of a California corrections facility of almost $13 million. United States Attorney Sally Quillian Yates said, “This defendant was part of an elaborate fraud scheme that ironically involved the construction of a prison. He will now experience how business is conducted inside a real prison.” SURLES was sentenced to 10 years in prison to be followed by three years of supervised release, and ordered to pay restitution in the amount of $5,417,500. SURLES was found guilty of one count of conspiracy and 15 counts of wire fraud by a federal jury at the conclusion of a two-week trial on February 19, 2010. SURLES’ co-defendants, EDGAR G. BEAUDREAULT, JR. and HOWARD A. SPERLING, were sentenced to federal prison terms on April 29, 2010, following their pleas of guilty. Both cooperated with the government and testified in SURLES’ trial. BEAUDREAULT is currently serving a prison sentence of three years, one month. SPERLING is currently serving a prison sentence of five years, 10 months. According to United States Attorney Yates, the charges and other information presented in court: From August 2003 through January 2004, BEAUDREAULT, SPERLING and SURLES conspired to defraud Cornell Corrections of California, Inc., a private company that operates corrections facilities for various governmental units. In June 2003, Cornell Corrections contracted to have a corrections facility built in Canon City, Colorado for $13 million. The $13 million purchase price was to be held in an escrow account until the facility was completed. In August 2003, the defendants induced Cornell Corrections to transfer its $13 million to an account in Atlanta, which they controlled, by falsely representing to Cornell that the account was an escrow account that was administered by a reputable bank. Upon receipt of Cornell Corrections’ $13 million, the defendants wire transferred the majority of Cornell’s $13 million to other accounts, to be used for their own purposes. Under the terms of their contract, the defendants were also to obtain a construction loan on behalf of “Western Comfort, Inc.” the general contractor who began construction of the facility. No loan was secured, making Western Comfort another victim of this scheme. This case was investigated by special agents of the Federal Bureau of Investigation. Assistant United States Attorneys Bernita B. Malloy and David E. McClernan prosecuted the case.

June 2, 2010 Yahoo Business Wire
The GEO Group (NYSE: GEO - News) and Cornell Companies (NYSE: CRN - News) announced today that the waiting-period under the Hart-Scott-Rodino Antitrust Improvements Act of 1976 with respect to the previously announced proposed merger of GEO and Cornell Companies (NYSE:CRN - News) has expired as of 11:59 pm on Tuesday, June 1, 2010, effectively clearing the transaction by the United States Federal Trade Commission and the United States Department of Justice Antitrust Division. The closing of the transaction remains subject to GEO and Cornell stockholder approval, and other customary conditions to closing. GEO and Cornell continue to expect that the transaction will close in the third quarter of 2010.

April 29, 2010 Atlanta Journal-Constitution
An Alpharetta man was sentenced Thursday to three years and five months in prison for bilking a Colorado corrections facility project out of nearly $13 million. Edgar J. Beaudreault Jr. pleaded guilty in December to charges of conspiracy to commit wire fraud. In 2003, Beaudreault, 61, and San Diego co-defendant Howard Sperling tricked Cornell Corrections of California Inc. into transferring $13 million into an Atlanta account that was supposed to be an escrow account for the purchase price of a Canon City, Colo., facility under construction, court authorities said. Rather than having the escrow administered by a reputable bank, Beaudreault and Sperling wired the money to other accounts for their own personal use. Under the same contract, the two men and another defendant also were supposed to obtain a construction loan on behalf of the general contractor on the project, but didn’t. “These defendants were part of an elaborate fraud scheme that ironically involved the construction of a prison,” U.S. attorney Sally Quillian Yates said. “They will now experience how business is conducted inside a real prison.” In addition to the federal prison sentence, Beaudreault is required to serve three years on supervised release and pay $5.4 million in restitution.

April 29, 2010 PR Log
An investor in CRN shares filed a lawsuit in Texas State Court on behalf of current investors in Cornell Companies, Inc. (NYSE:CRN) alleging breaches of fiduciary duty by the Cornell board of directors for selling Cornell Companies too cheaply to The GEO Group. If you currently hold shares of Cornell Companies, Inc. (NYSE:CRN), you have certain options and you should contact the Shareholders Foundation, Inc by email at mail@shareholdersfoundation.com or call +1 (858) 779 – 1554. Cornell Companies, Inc., located in Houston, Texas, is a provider of correctional, detention, educational, rehabilitation and treatment services outsourced by federal, state, county and local government agencies for adults and juveniles. On April 19, 2010, Cornell Companies (NYSE:CRN) and the GEO Group (NYSE:GEO) announced a merger agreement pursuant to which The GEO Group will acquire Cornell Companies for stock and/or cash at an estimated enterprise value of $685 million based on the closing prices of both companies' stocks on April 16, 2010, including the assumption of approximately $300 million in Cornell debt, excluding cash. Under the terms of the definitive agreement, stockholders of Cornell will a value of approximately $24.96 per Cornell (CRN) share. According to Cornell Companies the Boards of Directors have approved the merger agreement and the offer represents a 35 percent premium over the closing price of Cornell's stock (CRN) on April 16, 2010. Shares of Cornell Companies, Inc. (CRN) traded after the takeover announcement at $24.74 per share, and at $18.62 per share the trading day before the news. CRN shares were down from its 52weekHigh of $25.13 per share, and from $27.71 per share in 2008. At least one analyst set a price target for Cornell stock at $29.00 per share. On April 27, 2010, an investor filed a lawsuit against members of the board of directors, Cornell Companies Inc and The Geo Group over breaches of fiduciary duty arising out of the attempt to sell Cornell Companies, Inc. (NYSE:CRN) to the GEO Group. According to the complaint the plaintiff alleges, among other things, that the proposed acquisition is intended to take advantage of Cornell’s temporarily low current valuation and that the agreement contains certain provisions, like the $12million termination fee and “no shop” provision that unduly benefit GEO Group by making an alternative transaction either prohibitively expensive or otherwise impossible.

April 24, 2010 Grits For Breakfast
Texas Prison Bidness brings word that the Geo Group gobbled up yet another competitor, adding to its already enormous debt load and making it the second largest private prison company on the planet, behind Corrections Corporation of America. Reported the Financial Times: The Geo Group offered about $385m for Cornell Companies in a mixture of cash and stock, valuing the company at about $24.96 a share. The company will also take on about $300m of Cornell debt. The Geo Group's most recent 10K statement is really quite an amazing read, for anyone interested, particularly the lengthy section on risk factors, where the possibility is raised that a quarter-billion dollars in unsecured bonds issued privately last fall might be considered a "fraudulent conveyance" if the company defaults and a bankruptcy judge ever takes a close look at the deal. Facing a mountain of debt, mostly from acquiring competitors, this appears to be a pretty critical year for the Geo Group, with contracts up for renewal on almost one in five beds they operate. According to the 10-K: "As of January 3, 2010, eleven of our facility management contracts representing 10,407 beds are scheduled to expire on or before December 31, 2010, unless renewed by the customer at its sole option. These contracts represented 19.3% of our consolidated revenues for the fiscal year ended January 3, 2010." Other risks identified in Geo's 10-K include: •Our significant level of indebtedness could adversely affect our financial condition and prevent us from fulfilling our debt service obligations. •A decrease in occupancy levels could cause a decrease in revenues and profitability. •State budgetary constraints may have a material adverse impact on us. •Public resistance to privatization of correctional and detention facilities could result in our inability to obtain new contracts or the loss of existing contracts, which could have a material adverse effect on our business, financial condition and results of operations. •Adverse publicity may negatively impact our ability to retain existing contracts and obtain new contracts. •We may face community opposition to facility location, which may adversely affect our ability to obtain new contracts. •We may not be able to obtain or maintain the insurance levels required by our government contracts.

April 19, 2010 Palm Beach Post
Private prison operator The GEO Group Inc. (NYSE: GEO, $18.91) has agreed to buy rival Cornell Cos. in a deal worth about $685 million, including the assumption of about $300 million of Cornell's debt. The merger is a move to expand to meet increasing demand for private correctional facilities and services, the companies said in a release.

February 26, 2010 AP
Cornell Cos. Inc.'s sales and profit will decline if the state of Arizona removes inmates from the company's Oklahoma prison, an analyst said as he downgraded the prison operator's shares. First Analysis Securities analyst Todd Van Fleet downgraded the Houston company to "equal weight" from "overweight." The January budget proposals from Arizona's governor and legislature would phase out the use of private out-of-state beds. Arizona is struggling to close budget shortfalls. Van Fleet said there was less than a 25 percent chance that Cornell would be able to persuade legislators to keep Arizona inmates in the company's Oklahoma prison. The loss of the Arizona prisoners which could cut into Cornell's annual earnings by 35 cents to 45 cents per share. Van Fleet cut his estimate for 2010 profit to $1.09 per share from $1.69 per share, and his 2010 sales estimate to $398 million from $440.6 million. On Wednesday, when it released fourth-quarter earnings, Cornell predicted it would make $1.31 to $1.41 per share in 2010. The guidance assumed that Cornell would continue to keep all its Arizona inmates for the rest of the year. The contract for the Arizona prisoners ends in mid-September, Van Fleet said. Cornell shares slipped 13 cents to $18.61 in midday trading. They have dropped about 25 percent since Arizona proposed its budget in mid-January.

February 23, 2010 Pueblo Chieftain
A Chicago man who pocketed $605,000 in construction funds during the building of a youth treatment facility here was convicted Friday of conspiracy and wire fraud. A federal jury in Atlanta found Robert B. Surles, 64, guilty of conspiracy and 15 counts of wire fraud in connection with a scheme to steal nearly $13 million from Cornell Co., which built the Southern Peaks Regional Treatment Center in 2003. From Aug. 2003 to Jan. 2004, Surles, along with Edgar Beaudreault, 60, of Georgia, and Howard Sperling, 45, of San Diego, conspired to defraud Cornell of construction funds. Surles was to obtain a $12 million construction loan, but he and his co-defendants never obtained financing for the project and instead led the contractor to believe they had. The trio falsely represented that the funds were in an escrow account, but instead the money was transferred to other accounts. Although some money was used to get the construction started, the majority of funds was taken by the trio for personal purposes. The evidence at trial showed Surles took $605,000 of the funds, according to Patrick Crosby, public affairs officer for the United States Attorney's office in Atlanta. "This defendant fraudulently induced a company to transfer approximately $13 million into an ‘escrow account’ that turned out to be nothing but a piggy bank for the defendant and his co-conspirators," said Sally Quillian Yates, acting U.S. Attorney in Atlanta. "A federal jury was not fooled by the story he told when he testified and convicted him on conspiracy and multiple counts of fraud." Both Beaudreault and Sperling pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit wire fraud and testified against Surles. All three are awaiting sentencing for the crime and Surles is slated to be sentenced April 27.

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

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

February 2, 2009 Ledger-Enquirer
A California man pleaded guilty Monday to taking part in a plot to defraud a prison construction firm out of almost $13 million. Howard A. Sperling, 44, of San Diego entered the plea to a charge of conspiracy to commit wire fraud. Sperling could receive up to 20 years in prison when sentenced April 30 by U.S. District Judge Clarence Cooper. Sperling and two others conspired to defraud Cornell Corrections of California Inc., which operates 71 private corrections facilities in 15 states, federal prosecutors said. In 2003, Cornell was hired to build a prison in Canon City, Colo., and the $13 million purchase price was to be placed in escrow until completion. Cornell was induced to transfer the money to an Atlanta account controlled by co-defendant Edgar J. Beaudreault that was supposed to be administered by a reputable bank. Prosecutors say most of the money was transferred to other accounts, and Sperling withdrew $365,000 in cash, transferred $400,000 to personal and family members' accounts, paid $215,000 to banks and credit card companies, $85,000 to a Harrah's Casino and $60,000 for a Mercedes Benz. Beaudreault, 60, of Alpharetta, Ga., pleaded guilty Dec. 17 to conspiracy to commit wire fraud. Charges against the third defendant, Robert B. Surles of Canon City, are pending. A motion hearing is set for later this week.

December 17, 2008 AP
A Georgia businessman has admitted taking part in a scheme to defraud a California construction company of nearly $13 million. Edgar J. Beaudreault of Alpharetta pleaded guilty Wednesday in Atlanta to conspiracy to commit wire fraud. Federal prosecutors say Beaudreault, 60, and two others conspired to defraud Cornell Corrections of California Inc., which operates private corrections facilities. In 2003, Cornell was hired to build a prison in Canon City, Colo., and the $13 million purchase price was to be placed in escrow until completion. Cornell was induced to transfer the money to an Atlanta account, and most of it was then diverted to other accounts. Beaudreault could receive up to 20 years in prison and be fined $250,000 at sentencing March 18.

August 26, 2008 Atlanta Business Chronicle
An Alpharetta, Ga., man is among a group indicted Tuesday on charges of fraud related to a prison-building contract in Colorado. Edgar J. Beaudreault Jr., 60, of Alpharetta, Howard A. Sperling, 43, of San Diego, and Robert B. Surles, 62, of Canon City, Colo., were indicted by a federal grand jury on multiple charges. The indictment alleges from August 2003 through January 2004, the men concocted a scheme to defraud Cornell Corrections of California Inc., a private company based in Ventura that operates corrections facilities for governmental units. In June 2003, Cornell Corrections contracted to have a corrections facility built in Canon City, Colo., for $13 million. The money was to be held in an escrow account until the facility was completed. But in August 2003, the men allegedly got Cornell Corrections to transfer the $13 million to an account in Atlanta controlled by Beaudreault, and allegedly told Cornell the account was an escrow account administered by a reputable bank. After the transfer was made into the Atlanta account, the indictment claims the men then transferred the $13 million to other accounts to be used for their own purposes. The indictment charges 20 counts of wire fraud and one count of conspiracy. The charges carry a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison and a fine of up to $250,000 for each count.

July 15, 2008 The Daily Cougar
As Sen. Barack Obama wages his presidential campaign across the United States with political gusto, he's attracted names such as Vice President Al Gore and Sen. John Edwards. University of Houston Associate Professor of Law Tony Chase has also temporarily shifted his duties as a professor to become a member of the National Finance Committee of Obama's campaign. "I've known (Obama) for quite some time, and I was one of the people he asked whether if he should run," Chase said. "Because of that, this is very personal, and I genuinely believe he is best for this country." Aside from teaching, Chase is chairman and CEO of ChaseCom L.P. and Chase Radio Partners. He is also chairman and co-founder, together with SBC Communications Inc., of The Telecom Opportunity Institute, an organization that provides technical literacy training at no cost to at-risk communities. He serves as a director of Leap Wireless International Inc. and Cornell Companies Inc., and is chairman of the Houston Zoo Development Board. He is a member of the Council on Foreign Relations and serves as a director of the United Way of the Texas Gulf Coast and Houston Parks. Chase began teaching communications law and contracts at the UH Law Center in 1990 and received the Edith Baker Faculty Award in 1994. On July 8, he stepped down as the director of the Dallas Federal Reserve Bank to dedicate more time to the campaign. "I can't pick out a certain experience, but teaching graduate law and undergraduate classes has been particularly helpful in preparing me, because students are the future and full of ideas that in turn help me think about today's issues," Chase said. "My experience at the University helps me by being part of the excitement and interest among young and potential voters." As for his motives, he believes that the nation, in its current state, needs Obama as president. "I've known Barack and Michelle for a long time, and based on that, I believe he is a transcendent political figure," Chase said. "I know him well and his integrity and how he responds to pressure, but also how he will be an excellent leader." As the member of the National Finance Committee for the campaign, he helps make decisions on how the campaign will utilize its funds and how the fundraising will be run. He also performs special projects such as arranging meetings with constituents and senior advisors. "The experience I gain from the campaign will only help the way I try to bring practical experience to the classroom, and this is actually quite relevant to what I teach at the University," Chase said. Chase will return to teach in the fall and resume his usual duties for his organizations. "I will still do what I can to accommodate my teaching responsibilities and campaign duties and continue to voice my support for Barack Obama," Chase said.

January 23, 2007 Market Watch
Cornell Companies, Inc. announced that, at a special meeting of its shareholders held earlier today, a proposal to merge with the Veritas Capital Fund III, L.P., was rejected. As a result of this vote by shareholders, Cornell will continue to operate as a stand-alone publicly-traded entity. Although the company has not yet announced the timing of its fourth quarter earnings conference call, management intends to use such forum to provide further commentary on the transaction, as well as to discuss any changes to the previously-released 2007 guidance that was made public as a result of the transaction process.

January 19, 2007 AP
Alpine Associates, a Cornell Cos. (CRN) shareholder, plans to vote against Cornell's plan to be acquired by Veritas Capital Fund for $18.25 a share. Alpine and related entities own 631,700 shares, representing a 4.49% stake. Thursday, shares of private-prison operator Cornell closed at $18.90, up 16 cents. Alpine said "the current transaction does not fairly value Cornell's shares." Other shareholders have expressed opposition to the deal.

October 9, 2006 Market Watch
Cornell Companies, Inc. (CRN : news, chart, profile ) announced today the execution of a definitive merger agreement with Veritas Capital, under which Veritas will acquire Cornell in a transaction valued at approximately $518.6 million, including the assumption or repayment of approximately $273.6 million in debt. Under the terms of the agreement, Cornell stockholders will receive $18.25 in cash for each share of common stock they hold. The Company's Board of Directors has unanimously approved the agreement and will recommend that Cornell's stockholders approve the merger. James E. Hyman, Cornell's chairman and chief executive officer, said, "The Board of Directors has completed a comprehensive review of the strategic alternatives available to the Company, the result of which we are pleased to announce today. The Board endorses this transaction and believes it to be in the best interest of Cornell's shareholders. Veritas Capital is a private equity investment firm headquartered in New York. Founded in 1992 by Robert B. McKeon, Veritas invests primarily in companies specializing in outsourcing services to the government, primarily in the areas of defense and aerospace, security and infrastructure. Veritas' portfolio of companies includes, or has included, DynCorp International, Integrated Defense Technologies, Vertex Aerospace, McNeil Technologies, The Wornick Company, and TRAK Communications, among others. Veritas is dedicated to providing the highest level of critical services and equipment to the defense and federal sectors around the world. For more information, please visit www.veritascapital.com.

September 29, 2006 New York Times
Pirate Capital, a $1.7 billion fund based in Norwalk, Conn., lost half its investment team this week, according to a letter from the founder and portfolio manager, Thomas Hudson. In addition, Pirate, an “activist” fund that pressures management to increase shareholder value, is being investigated by the Securities and Exchange Commission on suspicion of failing to alert the commission when it was selling stock, according to one person briefed on the inquiry. Mr. Hudson’s letter, dated Sept. 28 and on stationery with a pirate ship logo, said that Pirate would close to new investors Sunday, to focus on delivering returns rather than collecting more money. “I’ve decided to return the firm to its roots,” Mr. Hudson wrote. “The goal is to focus on returns and not the size of the assets we manage.” Pirate Capital has had a difficult year: its flagship Jolly Roger Fund is up only 3.3 percent, while its activist fund is up 2.86 percent, according to materials sent to investors. Those returns are well below the average activist fund. Hedge Fund Research in Chicago tracks the returns of 44 funds that operate solely activist strategies; through August those funds have returned 10.39 percent. An S.E.C. spokesman, John Nester, declined to comment. Isa Bolotin, head of investor relations at Pirate Capital, did not return calls seeking comment. Pirate is known for its unusually brash tactics and unabashed style. A New York magazine cover article reported that Zachary George, 27, an analyst with the firm and former competitive snowboarder, told the chief executive of the Cornell Companies, a prison operator, that “You work for us,” and that Mr. George and Pirate wanted Cornell sold and the chief executive sacked. “Next year we’re going to be here, and you won’t,” Mr. George told the chief executive, according to the article. Mr. Hudson said two investment professionals, including Mr. George, resigned on Monday. On Wednesday, Carl Klein, a portfolio manager, resigned, and Mr. Hudson asked two more analysts to leave. Five people, including Mr. Hudson, remain. The S.E.C. is investigating whether Pirate was late in reporting to the commission material changes in its holdings. Investors with at least a 5 percent stake must report any changes to those holdings.

September 1, 2006 Alaska Report
The FBI served four more search warrants today in its investigation of the relationship between lawmakers and oilfield services company VECO Corporation, an Anchorage-based oil field services and construction company whose executives are major contributors to political campaigns. Bill Allen, owner of VECO, and his firm, were involved in a renovation of Alaska Senator Ted Stevens' chalet in Girdwood in the recent past. The Associated Press is reporting that the search warrants seek "from the period of October 2005 to the present, any and all documents concerning, reflecting or relating to proposed legislation in the state of Alaska involving either the creation of a natural gas pipeline or the petroleum production tax." An Anchorage FBI spokesman says that about two dozen search warrants have been executed so far, including three today in Anchorage and one in Willow. No arrests have been made as of yet. AlaskaReport has learned that a staffer in one of the offices raided has been providing information to federal authorities. In an interview with KTUU-TV in Anchorage, Wev Shea, a former U.S. attorney for Alaska says he knows who created the climate that he alleges allowed corruption to flourish. "The Republican Party is going to rue the day in this state for allowing Randy Ruedrich (chairman of the Republican Party of Alaska) to remain as a chair. He's bringing this party down and it's bad." KTUU also interviewed Rep. Eric Croft. He says he saw this coming two years ago, during a legislative committee meeting concerning VECO’s pitch for a sole-source contract award for a private prison. "I said at the time, in 2004, on the Whittier proposal, someone's going to jail over this 'cause I could see how corrupt the process was," said Croft, D-Anchorage.

August 31, 2006 Anchorage Daily News
Federal agents swarmed legislative offices around the state Thursday, executing search warrants in a coordinated series of raids that appeared to target the longstanding relationship between the oil-field service company Veco and leading lawmakers. Above Anchorage’s 4th Avenue, FBI agents spent most of the afternoon behind the closed doors and drawn blinds of the fifth-floor offices of Senate President Ben Stevens and Senate Rules Committee Chairman John Cowdery, both Anchorage Republicans. Through slits in the blinds, one agent in Stevens’ office, wearing rubber gloves, could be seen packing away evidence in a container. In Juneau, tourists and residents were greeted with the extraordinary sight of FBI agents hauling out files form the Alaska State Capitol after searching offices there. After the FBI searched his Wasilla office and questioned him, Rep. Vic Kohring, R-Wasilla, the chairman of the House Special Committee on Oil & Gas, said the investigation was focused on Veco. Other legislative offices known to have been searched Thursday included those of Reps. Pete Kott of Eagle River and Bruce Weyhrauch of Juneau, and Sen. Donny Olson of Nome. Kott, a former House speaker, and Weyhrauch are Republicans. Olson is the only Democrat in the group. FBI spokesman Eric Gonzalez said federal agents executed about 20 search warrants Thursday, not all in legislative offices. The warrants were executed in Anchorage, Juneau, Wasilla, Eagle River and Girdwood, he said. Ray Metcalfe, a former legislator and the founder of the independent Republican Moderate Party, said he has been trying to get the authorities interested in what he described as the “corrupt” relationship between Veco and the Republican-lead legislature, principally Ben Stevens. “I put all the stuff in front of federal prosecutors a year and a half ago,” Metcalfe said Thursday, clearly relishing the turn of events. “I laid hundreds of pages of detailed information alleging bribery, and I distributed it to federal authorities, I distributed it to the U.S. Attorney’s office, I distributed it to the (state attorney general’s) Office of Special Prosecutions, and we held a demonstration in front of the attorney general’s office that hardly anyone showed up for.” Metcalfe attempted to initiate a recall campaign against Stevens, but his effort was rejected by Lt. Gov. Loren Leman on legal grounds. After first announcing he’d run for re-election in November, Stevens changed his mind in June and opted to retire.Tamara Cook, a lawyer who heads the nonpartisan legal services division of the Legislature, said Thursday evening that she reviewed a couple of the search warrants at the request of legislators or aides upon whom they were served. The search warrants allowed the FBI to search computers and office files including financial records, she said. The warrants named Veco Corp., she said, but could not say whether Veco was a target or whether the investigation concerned oil taxes, its failed push to build a private prison in Alaska or something else.

August 28, 2006 Yahoo.com
Cornell Companies, Inc. (NYSE:CRN - News) announced today that Mark S. Croft, the General Counsel and Secretary of the Company, resigned on Saturday, August 26, 2006, to attend to personal matters unrelated to his role as an officer of the Company. Patrick N. Perrin, Senior Vice President and Chief Administrative Officer, has been appointed to the office of Secretary of the Company to succeed Mr. Croft.

June 5, 2006 Houston Business Journal
Cornell Companies Inc. on Monday afternoon said it has retained a financial advisor to assist the Houston operator of prisons in analyzing ways "to maximize shareholder value." The announcement, which came in a brief news release distributed Monday after the regular session of the stock market closed, essentially puts Cornell (NYSE: CRN - News) on the block as a candidate to be acquired. Beyond making the brief statement about hiring a financial advisor, Cornell in the Monday release said the prison operator does not intend to make further announcements on the matter until the NYSE-listed company "has made definitive decisions on its future strategic direction." No assurance can be given that any transaction will be pursued," according to the Cornell press release.

February 10, 2006 Yahoo
Cornell Companies, Inc. announced today the settlement of a securities class action lawsuit. In re Cornell Companies, Inc. Securities Litigation was originally filed by certain Cornell stockholders in March 2002 on behalf of all purchasers of Cornell's common stock from March 6, 2001 to March 5, 2002. The Company has agreed to settle this class action lawsuit for $7.0 million to avoid further protracted and expensive litigation. The settlement amount will be funded through the Company's directors' and officers' liability insurance and will have no impact on the Company's financial position, results of operations or cash flows. Under the terms of the settlement, Cornell has not admitted to any wrongdoing.

September 29, 2005 Baltimore Sun
Two Maryland judges said yesterday that the Ehrlich administration's decision to close the Charles H. Hickey Jr. School without a clear plan to replace it is jeopardizing the welfare of youths and putting public safety at risk. Baltimore County Circuit Judge Kathleen Cox and Anne Arundel Circuit Judge Pamela North told legislators that with Hickey preparing to close, there are not enough places to send tough young offenders who need to be removed from their homes to protect their safety and the community. The department said some Maryland youths will be sent to programs in Texas, Iowa, Indiana, Minnesota, Pennsylvania and Ohio with rates ranging from $47,450 to $116,800 per child per year. The list includes three facilities run by a for-profit Texas-based company that, according to published reports, was forced to close one of its centers amid complaints of abuse. Under pressure from Pennsylvania authorities, a company operating as Cornell Abraxas closed its New Morgan Academy near Reading in 2002 after about a dozen children were sexually assaulted by adults over the span of less than two years, according to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. The same company runs programs that the Department of Juveniles Services plans to use in Shelby, Ohio; Marienville, Pa.; and South Mountain, Pa., according to a list provided to legislators yesterday. Another facility on the list has had a more recent, but less severe, incident of violence. The Summit Academy reform school in Herman, Pa., has said that four workers were fired in July over a June 18 incident in which a 17-year-old male student suffered cuts to his face and ear.

September 29, 2005 Star-Telegram
In a move denounced as a political witchhunt, Rep. Tom DeLay was indicted Wednesday with two associates on a felony charge of conspiring to circumvent Texas' prohibition of corporate campaign donations to secure the Republican takeover of the Texas House in 2002. Shortly after Travis County District Attorney Ronnie Earle announced the indictment, the Republican congressman from Sugar Land resigned his powerful majority leader post in Washington, at least temporarily. DeLay, 58, is accused of conspiring with two associates to convert $190,000 in donations from several corporations into campaign contributions on behalf of seven Republican candidates who were involved in what many had believed would be close contests for seats in the Texas House.

September 28, 2005 Bloomberg
U.S. Representative Tom DeLay, the No. 2 Republican in the House, was indicted by a Texas grand jury for criminal conspiracy in connection with illegal corporate political donations, prompting him to give up his leadership post. Two former campaign aides, John Colyandro and Jim Ellis, were also charged with conspiracy by the state grand jury in Travis County, according to the single-count indictment. The charge stems from an investigation into alleged use of illegal corporate contributions by DeLay's political action committee, Texans for a Republican Majority, in the 2002 races for the state House of Representatives. The four-page indictment charges that DeLay conspired with Ellis and Colyandro to use donations from companies including Williams Companies Inc. and Sears, Roebuck and Co., now Sears Holdings Corp., to help finance the election campaigns of seven members of the Texas House in 2002. Under Texas law, corporations aren't permitted to donate to candidates. Other companies named, but like Williams and Sears, not charged in the indictment were Diversified Collections Services Inc., Cornell Companies Inc., Bacardi U.S.A. Inc. and Questerra Corp.

September 22, 2005 Texas Lawyer
A private corrections company seeks to hold Locke Liddell & Sapp liable for more than $5 million that's allegedly missing from an account set up for a land deal. Houston-based Cornell Companies Inc. sued Locke Liddell and David Montgomery, a partner in the firm, alleging malpractice, among other things. The company filed Cornell Companies Inc. v. Locke Liddell & Sapp, et al. on Aug. 26 in Houston's 333rd District Court. In its petition, Cornell alleges that the defendants "dropped the ball" by failing to ensure that a proper escrow account was set up in 2003 to hold the company's funds. Those funds were intended to be used to buy land in Colorado on which to develop a regional correctional rehabilitation center. As alleged in the petition, the defendants gave Cornell the "green light" to wire almost $13 million into an account that was purported to be an escrow account. "There was no escrow agent; there was no escrow account," alleges Scott Hershman, one of the attorneys representing Cornell. The suit against Locke Liddell is related to a suit that a Cornell subsidiary filed last year in the Superior Court of Fulton County in Atlanta. Cornell alleged in its second amended complaint in Cornell Corrections of California Inc. v. Longboat Global Advisors, et al. that attorney Edgar J. Beaudreault of Roswell, Ga., a defendant in the suit, handled the construction loan transaction on behalf of Longboat, which was providing financing for the corrections facility project. Cornell Corrections alleged in the Georgia complaint that Beaudreault, who is also Longboat's vice president and managing director, arranged for the escrow account but it turned out to be a regular bank account. Cornell Corrections further alleged in the complaint that, although the company wired the funds to Bank of America in August 2003, it didn't learn until November of that year that the bank was not holding money in escrow and that a withdrawal never authorized by Cornell Corrections had been made. Hershman, a partner in Lackey Hershman in Dallas, says he doesn't expect Cornell Corrections will be able to collect the damages awarded in the Georgia case, because he thinks the money is gone. Michael Shaunessy, an Austin, Texas, attorney who represents plaintiffs in legal malpractice cases but is not involved in Cornell's suit against Locke Liddell, says the fact that a company hires lawyers to handle this type of transaction doesn't eliminate the company's responsibility to exercise due diligence in the matter.
Shaunessy, a partner in Shaunessy & Burnett, says he expects Locke Liddell and Montgomery to raise a causation defense, arguing that those who took the money out of the account caused Cornell's loss. Cornell can argue that, if the defendants had set up the account so that the money couldn't be moved without the company's authorization, Cornell would not have suffered the loss, he says.

September 13, 2005 American-Statesman
A Travis County grand jury today added new felony charges against two officials with Texans for a Republican Majority who first were indicted last fall. The grand jury re-indicted political consultants John Colyandro and Jim Ellis on first-degree felony charges that the two laundered a $190,000 corporate check into campaign donations during the 2002 elections. It added lesser felony charges of unlawfully making a contribution to a political party and criminal conspiracy involving the $190,000 transaction. Just weeks before the 2002 election, Colyandro, who was executive director of the political committee created by U.S. House Majority Leader Tom DeLay, R-Sugar Land, sent a blank check to his counterpart, Ellis, in Washington.

September 9, 2005 Houston Chronicle
A Travis County grand jury indicted a business organization and a political committee founded by U.S. House Majority Leader Tom DeLay on Thursday on felony charges of violating election laws by using corporate money to influence state elections. The indictments accuse the DeLay-founded Texans for a Republican Majority Political Action Committee of two counts of illegally soliciting corporate money for political campaigns. The indictment of TRMPAC is significant because it reflects on DeLay's role in overseeing the committee. DeLay served on its board of advisers and helped raise some of the corporate money at the core of the controversy. Texas election law prohibits the use of corporate or labor-union money to influence races for elective office. TRMPAC could face a fine of up to $40,000, but the committee filed articles of dissolution with the Texas Ethics Commission in July. Earle said the dissolution does not matter because TRMPAC's management or board of advisers can be held liable for its criminal conduct.

August 9, 2005 Houston Chronicle
A state district judge refused Tuesday to dismiss charges of money laundering and accepting illegal political contributions against two associates of U.S. House Majority Leader Tom DeLay, R-Sugar Land. Judge Bob Perkins denied arguments from John Colyandro and Jim Ellis that the charges were based on an unconstitutionally vague law and that the indictments were improperly worded. Lawyers for Colyandro, who worked for DeLay's fundraising committee Texans for a Republican Majority, and Jim Ellis, who worked for Americans for a Republican Majority, have said they will appeal, likely delaying any trial for at least several months. The charges stem from the 2002 Texas legislative elections. The money-laundering charges are based on $190,000 in corporate money that was sent to the Republican National State Elections Committee.

June 3, 2005 Houston Business Journal
Insurgent shareholder Pirate Capital LLC has captured the board of Cornell Cos. Inc. Pirate gained control of the Houston-based prison operator last month after setting sail on a proxy fight that originated a year earlier. Toting a treasure trove of Cornell common shares -- a 14.8 percent stake as of mid-May -- the Connecticut-based investment firm emerged with the right to put seven directors on Cornell's nine-member board. Cornell controls the remaining two seats on the board, which increased from seven to nine members as part of a new agreement with Pirate. "It appeared that (Cornell) had been heading for a distracting and costly proxy battle," notes Scott Schneeberger, a stock analyst at Lehman Brothers. Cornell also got Pirate to concede that the investment firm will not pursue a transaction to take the publicly traded Houston company private for at least the next two years. At the same time, Cornell Chairman James Hyman will no longer steer the board of directors after the end of this month. Despite 20 years of experience in operations, finance, process management, mergers and acquisitions, Hyman's name is conspicuously missing from the slate of nominees for the new board.

July 13, 2005 Houston Chronicle
A state district judge declined Tuesday to dismiss charges of accepting illegal political contributions against an associate of U.S. House Majority Leader Tom DeLay.  Lawyers for John Colyandro, who worked for DeLay's fund-raising committee Texans for a Republican Majority, had claimed that the indictment against him was based on an unconstitutionally vague law.  Judge Bob Perkins also declined to dismiss a charge of money laundering against Colyandro, although that issue remains technically alive.  The charges stem from the 2002 Texas legislative elections.  The money-laundering charges are related to $190,000 in corporate money sent to the Republican National State Elections Committee.   The committee then gave the same amount to seven Texas House candidates.  

March 11, 2005 The Deal
True to its swashbuckling name, hedge fund Pirate Capital LLC is preparing to make a run at struggling Cornell Cos., a prison and juvenile-facilities operator. Since last year, Houston-based Cornell has been under pressure from Thomas R. Hudson Jr., portfolio manager at the 2-year-old Norwalk Conn.-based hedge fund, to seek a buyer. After a series of missteps by Cornell, Pirate's Jolly Roger Fund LP launched a proxy contest on Feb. 24 to take over all seven seats on Cornell's board at an annual meeting expected in June. "You can just see the shots being fired across the bow of Cornell," says Sheryl Skolnick, an analyst at Fulcrum Global Partners LLC in New York. Skolnick says a strategic acquirer would pay roughly $20.50 a share for the assets — $270 million in equity plus $112 million in debt. Cornell traded early last week at around $14.40 a share. Anton Hie, an analyst with Jefferies & Co. in Nashville, says a strategic acquirer would value Cornell at $16 to $18 a share, and would cut costs by eliminating overhead and other administrative expenses. A financial buyer could break up the company and sell various facilities "in pieces," Hie says. Skolnick, whose firm does not do work for Cornell, cites Nashville-based Correction Corp. of America and Geo Group Inc. of Boca Raton, Fla., the two largest private providers of adult-prison management services in the U.S., as likely buyers. Hie, whose firm does not own Cornell stock, says CCA and Geo might be more interested in Cornell's adult facilities, but he would not estimate a valuation on these assets. Privately held Management and Training Corp. of Centerville, Utah, could also be interested, Skolnick says. She and other analysts say the other major player in the industry, Sarasota, Fla.-based Corrections Services Corp., is smaller than Cornell and unlikely to make a bid. "These publicly traded companies are interested in growing, and acquiring Cornell would help them improve their bottom line," says a corrections consultant. Officials for CCA and Geo did not return calls seeking comment. Cornell posted a loss of $897,000 for the third quarter of fiscal 2004, the latest results available, compared with a profit of $1.4 million a year earlier, even as sales rose to $74.7 million from $68.6 million. The company has made some internal changes. In January it hired James Hyman to replace outgoing CEO Harry Phillips. Skolnick says Hyman has some real estate experience but "may not know what he's gotten himself into." Pirate Capital, which has a 14.8% Cornell stake, has yet to offer an opinion of Hyman. As part of a broad strategy to learn shareholder concerns, Hyman has met with numerous investors, including activist hedge fund managers, since he took over in January. He has also huddled with Pirate officials several times in the past month, and says he plans to do so again. "It's part of an ongoing process," Hyman says. "I asked [investors] to be very frank and tell me as straight as they can how they view Cornell." He says Cornell would consider any offer, but that the company is not seeking a buyer. Cornell also recently replaced director Marcus Watts with Isabella Cunningham, a communications professor at the University of Texas. That move, says a shareholder, suggests "creeping compliance" with Pirate's wishes. Shareholders had repeatedly asked the board to replace Watts, a partner at law firm Locke Liddell & Sapp LLP, who they argued lacked sufficient independence. Locke Liddell & Sapp has a business relationship with Cornell. Cunningham, considered independent, developed a criminal-justice program at St. Edward's University in Austin, Texas. Skolnick says Hyman will have his work cut out for him. He acknowledges that Cornell has made some major mistakes lately. For example, it leased an abandoned jail in Bernalillo County, N.M., and announced in spring 2003 that the facility would house roughly 1,000 inmates by the end of that year and generate $25 million in annual revenue. But after lease problems and poor planning, Skolnick says, the facility held only 300 inmates by the end of 2004 and brought in significantly less revenue than promised. Cornell's acquisition of an abandoned training school in Plankinton, S.D., was another botched purchase. The company turned the school into a juvenile-detention center with an investment of $200,000. For the program to be profitable, Cornell needed the state to pay $175 a day per inmate. But the state agreed to pay only $125. After three months, Cornell closed the operation. "What this points out is how Cornell generally does not complete the necessary due diligence before going out and opening facilities," Skolnick says. "They do a terrible job of completing projects and ramping up occupancy in their facilities." On Feb. 1 Cornell announced plans to buy San Diego-based Correctional Systems Inc. for $10 million, an acquisition Hyman says is complementary. Other shareholders have risen to Pirate Capital's support. "We believe that the board's attempt to simultaneously replace the company's CEO and CFO without reaching out to Pirate Capital, its largest shareholder, represents another example of poor judgment," says Nelson Obus, president of New York hedge fund Wynnefield Capital LLC in a January Securities and Exchange Commission filing. People familiar with Pirate say its nominees have vastly more experience in corrections-facility management, restructuring and turnarounds than Cornell's current board. Pirate nominee Richard Crane, a corrections-project consultant, is a former general counsel to CCA, one of the companies that might consider acquiring Cornell. Then there's Sally Walker, president of Encourage Youth Corp., a consulting firm specializing in programs for juvenile offenders. Pirate is also nominating two people from within its own ranks: portfolio manager Hudson and investment analyst Zachary George. Says Skolnick: "Shareholders would be well-served to have a professional management team that is focused on returns instead of revenue growth."

March 10, 2005 Dow Jones
Cornell Cos.' (CRN) fourth-quarter loss ballooned as the company took a number of charges and announced that it will eliminate two layers of management and close underperforming programs. In a press release Thursday, the prison operator said that among the jobs eliminated was that of President and Chief Operating Officer Thomas R. Jenkins. Chief Executive James Hyman will assume the chief operating officer responsibilities. In a bid to improve its operations, Cornell said it was trimming its management, cutting Jenkins' job as well as a number of vice president and director-level positions that "interfered" between business unit managers and their programs. The shakeup is just the latest in a slew of management changes at Cornell. Hyman himself was named chief executive in January. John Nieser, the chief financial officer, was named in February. Meanwhile, a group of shareholders including Pirate Capital LLC, which hold about 15% of the company, have called for the entire board to step down. Apart from changes to its management, Cornell said Thursday it will close a number of its programs that consumed cash and managerial talent that could better be spent elsewhere.
The programs, set to be shuttered in the first and second quarters, include the Joz-Arz program in the District of Columbia, the Residential School in Illinois, which is owned by the company, and behavioral health programs in Pennsylvania.

November 9, 2004 PRNews
Cornell Companies, a leading provider of privatized adult and juvenile correctional, treatment and educational services, announced today that the Company has commenced a search for a new chief executive officer.  Harry J. Phillips, Jr. will continue to serve as chief executive officer until a successor is named and, thereafter, will continue as chairman of the board of directors.

October 22, 2004 AP
Two associates of U.S. House Majority Leader Tom DeLay who have been indicted for alleged campaign finance violations will be allowed to put off answering a civil lawsuit until their criminal charges have been resolved.  State District Judge Joe Hart on Thursday postponed a civil lawsuit against John Colyandro and Jim Ellis, who were charged last month with laundering corporate donations during the 2002 elections.

September 22, 2004 AP
The money laundering allegation in a congressional ethics complaint filed against House Majority Leader Tom DeLay involves the same $190,000 in political contributions that led to indictments of the Texas congressman's aides on similar charges. DeLay is accused in an ethics complaint of misusing the Texans for a Republican Majority Political Action Committee to launder $190,000 in illegal corporate contributions through the Republican National Committee for use in Texas legislative races. On Tuesday, a grand jury in Texas indicted Jim Ellis, a paid consultant to Texans for a Republican Majority, and John Colyandro, former executive director of the Texas committee, on money laundering charges involving the same $190,000 check. A third aide was indicted on separate charges. The indictments allege that on Sept. 13, 2002, Ellis delivered a check for $190,000 to the Republican National Committee. The check was signed by Colyandro and made out to the Republican National State Elections Committee. Accompanying it was a list of several GOP Texas legislative candidates and the amount of money that each should get from the RNC, according to the indictment. The indictments said the $190,000 came from corporate contributions to Texans for A Republican Majority. Givers included Diversified Collection Services Inc., $50,000; Sears, Roebuck and Co., $25,000; Williams Companies Inc., $25,000; Cornell Companies, $10,000, Bacardi USA, $20,000 and Questerra Corp., $25,000, the indictments said. They did not account for the remaining contributions. The Republican National State Elections Committee subsequently wrote checks totaling $190,000 to seven Texas candidates, the indictment alleges.
Texas law prohibits the use of corporate money for direct political purposes.

August 15, 2004
Rarely does the siren of shareholder revolt sound as loudly as it has at Cornell Cos., a Houston-based operator of adult and juvenile corrections centers and treatment facilities. During a conference call last week, investors irate over the company's performance blasted Chairman Harry Phillips. "Our capital is being wasted here, and our company is being undermanaged," said Zachary George with Pirate Capital, a Connecticut hedge fund that owns 7.5 percent of Cornell's shares, making it one of the company's biggest investors. "We are not going to let you guys destroy this company. Your time at Cornell is limited." Pirate, which began buying Cornell shares in May, targets companies it believes are undervalued. It isn't alone in its displeasure: Thirty-five percent of the company's investors withheld their votes for directors at the last annual meeting, and that was without any organized effort. Investors have ample reason to be ticked off. Net income was almost $8 million in 2000, but the company hasn't seen a profit like that since. Last year, earnings were less than $4 million. Profit margins have been halved during the same period. Cornell's market value has tumbled to $166 million from $228 million in 2001. For Cornell's management, the hour of reckoning is nigh. Promises of a prosperous future will no longer quell the discontent. The sirens are sounding, and the message for management is clear: The future is now.
(Houston Chronicle)

August 14, 2002
Prison builder and operator Cornell Cos. Inc. said on Tuesday its second quarter profit fell, in part from a one-time charge for a federal prison contract in Mississippi that it failed to win.  The company, which operates 69 prisons, detention and substance treatment centers across America, said short-term prospects for new contracts were uncertain as federal funds were diverted to the new Homeland Security Department.  But Cornell also said it was optimistic about the growth in the future as prison recidivism rates increase, along with demand from Immigration and Naturalization Service detention centers.  In addition, increasing budgetary restraints on states should drive demand for prison privatization.  Cornell said unusual items, including about $1 million in costs of the failed bid for the Southeast Federal Bureau of Prisons project in Mississippi reduced earnings by 5 cents per share.  (Yahoo Finance)

August 13, 2002
Prison builder and operator Cornell Cos. Inc. on Tuesday said net income fell in the second quarter, pressured in part by a one-time charge after it failed to win a federal prison contract.  (Yahoo Finance)

June 2, 2002
Cornell Companies Inc. (NYSE:CRN - News) updated today its outlook following the announcement of results from a recent federal procurement process. The Company previously submitted a response to a request for proposal from the Federal Bureau of Prisons (FBOP) for a potential new prison in the Southeast U.S. The Company did not receive this award. Since these awards require construction to be completed within 365 days, the Company had successfully pre-arranged and received bank commitments for a construction and lease-financing vehicle that would allow it to meet this schedule. As a result, the Company has elected to expense approximately $530,000 in after-tax costs in the second quarter, or $0.04 earnings per share, representing bank commitment fees and related accounting and legal costs. (Yahoo Finance)

May 31, 2002
Shares of prison builder and operator Cornell Cos. Inc. dropped more than 19 percent in intraday trading on Friday, a day after the Federal Bureau of Prisons awarded a contract to a Cornell rival, analysts said.  The 1,500-bed contract went to Corrections Corp. of America, the No.1 prison operator, on Thursday.  Cornell was the other finalist for the $109 million contract.  "It's a disappointment.  There's a chance they could have gotten it," said Jim McDonald, an analyst with First Analysis.  But the chances were slim, he added, because Corrections Corp. had an empty facility in Georgia, whereas Cornell would have had to build a new facility.  Lehman Brothers downgraded Cornell's stock on Friday morning to "buy" from "strong buy."  Cornell's troubles may not be over, said Matt Hull, an analyst at Avondale Partners, who has the stock at an "accumulate" rating.  The prison bureau's move "removes growth from the picture at the federal level, and state budgets have less money, so you don't see a lot of prison expansion at the state level," he said.  "These stocks sell on growth, and that's what were missing," Hull said.  "Now there's no near-term catalyst."  (Yahoo Finance)

May 1, 2002
At the D. Ray James Prison in south Georgia, the inmates have been kept behind bars by all types of lawmen: sheriffs, chiefs of police and more than a few wardens. But never, until now, have they been kept in jail by a charity. In August, a partnership headed by Provident Foundation Inc., a not-for-profit group based in Baton Rouge, La., bought the prison, a 1,500-man compound on the edge of the Okefenokee Swamp. Corrections experts say they don't know of another example in recent times of a charity owning a prison. Provident isn't a conventional charity. It is run by a group of lawyers, investment bankers and financial consultants. Lehman Bros. Holdings Inc. and other Wall Street titans do its financial work. With that impressive firepower, Provident is trying to carve a unique niche for itself in the corrections world, offering off-the-books financing for public and private prison operators. It has helped the state of North Carolina and Cornell Cos., a for-profit prison company, buff their financial profiles. Provident does this by creating special subsidiaries and partnerships that take advantage of controversial accounting rules and allow its clients to keep debt off of their balance sheets. As scrutiny of complex accounting grows in the wake of the Enron Corp. collapse, Provident offers the unusual twist of a nonprofit playing the off-the-books game. The foundation's major deal with Cornell sparked an embarrassing restatement of the Houston-based company's financial figures last month. The company's top official has been stripped of his titles as chairman and chief executive. In April 2001, Provident formed a subsidiary, Carolina Corrections LLC, to bid for a contract to build three 1,000-bed prisons for North Carolina. This arrangement allows North Carolina to avoid borrowing more money itself at a time when its budget deficit has grown. But in the long run, renting could cost the state more than simply building the prisons itself. North Carolina's nonpartisan fiscal-research division has estimated the 20-year-lease expense as $370 million. That's $146 million more than the $224 million purchase price. Early this year, Cornell's stock continued to rise. But on Jan. 31, its auditor, Andersen, sent a troubling letter to members of the Cornell board's audit committee. Acting after it had come under fire for its auditing of Enron, Andersen questioned the purpose of an unusual $3.7 million retainer Cornell last August had agreed to pay Lehman. The retainer wasn't linked to a specific assignment but was supposed to pay for work Lehman might do in the future. Six days after receiving the letter, Cornell announced plans to review its accounting of the August sale-leaseback. Its stock fell 43% in one day. (The Wall Street Journal)

April 29, 2002
Cornell has announced that it will establish a memorial to American ideals at the Shanksville-Stonycreek school, near the Pennsylvania site of the crash of United Flight 93 on September 11th.  (Cornell Companies/Yahoo! Finance)

March 8, 2002
Milberg Weiss, Levy and Levy, P.C., Cauley Geller Bowman and Coates, LLP, and Schiffrin and Barroway, LLP announced that a class action has been commenced in the United States District Court for the Southern District of Texas on behalf of purchasers of Cornell Companies, Inc.  The complaint charges Cornell and certain of its officers and directors with violations of the Securities Exchange Act of 1934.  The complaint alleges that during the Class Period, defendants issued favorable but false statements and made false and misleading statements about the Company's business.  (Press Releases from Milberg Weiss Bershad Hynes and Lerach, LLP, Levy and Levy, P.C., Cauley Geller Bowman and Coates, LLP, and Schiffrin and Barroway, LLP) 

April 25, 2002
This isn’t a good time to be CEO of a Houston company audited by Arthur Andersen. Especially if you are a former Arthur Andersen accountant. And most especially if you may have to restate your earnings because the “innovative” off-the-books transaction you arranged six months ago could violate the same SEC rules that exposed Enron’s partnerships. In August, Steve Logan completed a deal that he boasted would enable Cornell Cos., the country’s third-largest builder and operator of prisons, to double the industry’s growth rate. His deal involves a sale/leaseback transaction, in which facilities are sold to a bond-issuing special-purpose company, Municipal Corrections Finance, or MCF, and leased back to Cornell at a favorable rate. “We’ve changed the industry,” the CEO declared last summer. “This is something that competitors have been trying to do for a decade. No one else has been able.” On Jan. 31, auditors alerted Cornell of a possible conflict with SEC rules, which require that the equity owner of MCF—in this case affiliates of Lehman Brothers—own at least 3 percent of MCF for it to qualify as a separate company. Cornell’s shares fell 43 percent on the news, to $9.96 from $17.48. At issue is $3.65 million Cornell paid to Lehman Brothers in September. The fee was reported as a retainer to Lehman Brothers for future financial advisory services. However, it could also be seen as a belated payment for Lehman Brothers’ role in setting up MCF, which would reduce Lehman Brothers’ equity below the required level. Outside ownership was the missing ingredient in Enron’s partnerships. (The e-Network for CEOs)

March 6, 2002
Prison builder and operator Cornell Cos Inc. said Wednesday it will restate its earnings for 2000 and for three quarters of 2001 after reviewing two off-balance-sheet transactions, a move that will reduce previously reported earnings. Last month Cornell said its board of directors -- acting on the recommendation of its independent auditor -- had formed a special committee to review an August off-balance-sheet transaction in which Cornell sold 11 facilities and then leased them back. It also said it was reviewing what it called a ``synthetic lease transaction'' which occurred in 2000. The facilities were sold to affiliates of an unnamed investment bank. Cornell said Wednesday that it has decided to consolidate the transactions, moving them back onto the company's income statements and balance sheets. The effect of the restatement will require waivers of certain covenants under the company's senior credit facility, Cornell added. Based on discussions with its lenders, Cornell expects to reach agreement to waive and/or restructure the covenants. (Reuters)

February 11, 2002 Last Wednesday, Cornell Cos. , a Houston-based prison builder and operator, announced that it is reviewing its books - or rather, reviewing an off-book transaction that it entered into during 2001. Not surprisingly, in this post-Enron environment, the market reacted very negatively. However, from the Sleuth's point of view, there are several "disconcerting" aspects to all of this: Even though this "retainer agreement" was reportedly entered into during the third quarter, the Sleuth was unable to find references to any "retainer agreement" in CRN's third quarter 10-Q Report, and there was no evidence that the company had either paid this $3.65 million to Lehman Brothers or had recognized this debt as a liability. Likewise, this $3.65 million "retainer" does not appear to have been used to pay for any of the costs of the company's secondary offering, announced on November 27, 2001, for which Lehman Brothers was the lead underwriter. A review of the Company's filings with the SEC for this offering fails to show that any of CRN's expenses from this secondary offering were paid out of any "retainer agreement." And then, the company also announced a changing of the guard. One of its outside directors would become chairman, while the now-former chairman would remain president and chief executive of the company. This press release came only eleven minutes after the announcement of the investigation. (Securities Sleuth)

February 6, 2002
Prison builder and operator Cornell Wednesday said it was reviewing accounting issues raised by its auditor related to an off-balance-sheet transaction, in one of the clearest signs yet that accountants are increasingly questioning such deals after Enron's collapse. Cornell said its board of directors had formed a special committee to review an August transaction in which Cornell sold 11 facilities and then leased them back. Accounting firm Andersen, under fire for blessing Enron's books, was Cornell's auditor, according to its most recent quarterly report. Cornell, which said the review could have material financial consequences, also said its president and chief executive will no longer be chairman. The news sent Cornell shares plunging on the New York Stock Exchange, where they lost more than half their value before recouping some losses. Cornell shares were down 40 percent, or $7.03 to $10.45 on the New York Stock Exchange in late afternoon trading, making it the largest percentage loser on the NYSE on Wednesday. Cornell said the facilities were sold to an entity owned by affiliates of an unnamed investment bank for net proceeds of $173 million. Cornell is focusing on a $3.65 million non-refundable fee it paid to the investment bank and whether that fee affected the previously reported accounting treatment for the transaction, the company said. It also is looking at whether its financial statements appropriately reflected the amount paid to the investment bank. The fee was for financial advisory services concerning future financing vehicles and strategic development. Depending on the results of the accounting review, the company could be forced to put the facilities back on its balance sheet as assets and take on the debt of Municipal Corrections Finance L.P., the entity formed to buy the facilities, as a liability, Cornell said. Municipal Corrections Finance is a completely independent entity from Cornell and involves no Cornell employees, the spokesman said. Cornell, which provides prison, treatment and educational services to government agencies, also said it had installed an outside director, Harry Phillips Jr., as its new chairman. Phillips succeeds Steve Logan, who remains president and chief executive of Cornell. (Reuters)

February 7, 2002
Shares of private prison operator Cornell Cos. fell 43 percent Wednesday after the company disclosed it is reviewing its accounting of a real estate deal in August. Also Wednesday, Houston-based Cornell named Harry Phillips chairman, replacing Steve Logan, who remains president and chief executive officer. The special committee is reviewing whether the retainer amount paid by Cornell to the investment bank would reduce the previously established equity of the investment bank affiliate in Municipal Corrections Finance. If that happened, Municipal Corrections Finance's assets, liabilities and operating results would have to be reported as part of Cornell's financial statements going back to 2001's third quarter. (Houston Chronicle)

Corplan, Argyle, Texas
June 9, 2010 Arizona Silver Belt
At two consecutive city council meetings in April, the Globe council members heard from a group of men representing three corporations: Emerald Correctional Management, Corplan and Cuny Corporation. These men addressed the council regarding their desire to put in a bid with the Arizona Department of Corrections to construct a private, 1,000-bed prison in the City of Globe. The men presented estimates of economic growth that sounded almost too good to be true. According to Mike Moore of Emerald Corrections, “the city could get a monthly revenue check per inmate per month but it would depend on the monthly per diem that the state pays. It does pay and it’s a sizable number.” The group of business men went on to say the entire project would be $60 to $100 million in construction, and the goal would be to hire local workforce for 70 percent of the construction. They also promised to help the city with expansion of the sewer infrastructure. The city council took two hours to reach a decision, but in the end, a 4-2 vote in favor of supporting Emerald Corrections’ bid to build the prison was approved. A deal too good to be true? Well, there might be more than meets the eye. Case Study: Hardin, Mon. In 2004, Mr. James Parkey of Corplan - the same James Parkey who spoke to the Globe city council - proposed the construction of a private prison in Hardin, Mon., a small rural city suffering from economic stalemate. A team of experts spoke to the city officials, selling them hope of economic prosperity through the private prison business. The 450-bed prison was supposed to generate 150 secure jobs and at least $100,000 in annual per-prisoner revenue. The companies involved, Corplan as the developer, Cuny Corporation as the civil engineer of the project, and Civigenics as the prison operators, promised to realize the project from start to finish. To pay for the prison, the city of Hardin would have to conduct a bond sale. Prior to the construction, Parkey promised the city officials an economic feasibility study, which was carried out by Howard Geisler, a consultant specializing in prisons, and who had worked together with Parkey in a number of other cities. The study presented facts and figures that a Montana state auditor later described as providing “little methodology” and lacking “historical data to support anticipated prisoner counts.” The auditor went on the say the report made “a number of assumptions made related to financial viability that appear to be unfounded.” The prison was built, and the three companies involved received their payments and Hardin prepared itself for its first prisoners. In this case, however, they built it, but no one came. Hardin became so desperate to get prisoners in their prison, that they requested taking sex-offenders and later even Guantanamo Bay prisoners. Since the prison had been built for less high profile inmates, with 24-bed cells, Hardin’s requests were turned down. Hardin’s detention center never received the expected prisoners and the city has been in bond default for the last two years. A post on the detention center’s website reads, “any person or parties interested in operating or leasing space in the Hardin Detention Facility should contact...” “Do a lot of research” -- The pain is still throbbing in Hardin, Mon. After contacting the executive director of economic development and the mayor, the only comment given was “do a lot of research.” Hardin, Mon. is one of the most prominent cases, where Corplan and its partners have left a city with an empty prison. Corplan’s website lists a number of sample prisons that they have built that are surviving. However, it does not list Hardin. Neither are a number of other cases, where things ‘went wrong,’ including facilities in LaSalle County, Texas, Pioche, Nev., Lindsay, Okla., McLennan County, Texas, Las Cruses, N.M., and St. Luis, Ariz. In Willacy County, three county commissioners who were working very closely together with Corplan were indicted on bribery charges. Parkey’s and Corplan’s actions have caught attention in the media. Dan Rather reported on a few cases, especially the prison in LaSalle, Texas. Frank Smith, of the non-profit organization Private Corrections Working Group, has been following Parkey and Corplan over the years. Smith warned that the economic feasibility report must be read very closely and to expect that there may be exaggerations or left out aspects. The economic feasibility study “sells” the project more than examines it in some cases. When asked why nothing has been done legally against Corplan, Smith named a number of small factors that may be reasons why is some cases nothing was done. In Globe’s case, Corplan, Emerald Corrections, and Cuny Corporation have asked for support for a bid in response to a request for proposals put out by the Arizona DOC. In Hardin, the three partner corporations told the city that the prison operator, Civigenics, would provide the service of having prisoners housed in the facility. This could be a major difference in the success or failure of the proposed Globe project. The Arizona DOC will be awarding the contracts for the prisons by June 30, 2010.

April 28, 2010 San Pedro Valley News-Sun
Allowing a private detention center to operate in Benson is not in the city's best interest said Michelle Brane, the director of the detention and asylum program for the Women's Refugee Commission. In fact, Brane said private prisons like the proposed 200-bed facility are "horrible for rural communities." Corplan Corrections, a Texas Company, wants to build a 104,000-square-foot facility to house mostly women and children who are in the country illegally. The company known for building prisons and detention centers in the U.S., has promised the city big payouts if they sponsor the $27 million bonds needed to pay for the prison construction. Representatives of Corplan, including Toby Michael and James Parkey, have told city officials and council members that the bond is paid for through federal funding. Corplan Corrections has already selected a 25-acre parcel that would hold the facility, that they are calling a "Family Residential Center of the Southwest," near Benson Municipal Airport. However, Brane said the promise of federal funding is not a true statement. "I have spoken to the Department of Homeland Security, and the Immigrations and Customs Enforcement because if Corplan were to get funding, it would be from them," she said. "At this point there are not any (request for proposals); there have been no discussions with the federal government. Nothing is a sure thing and in fact I would say highly doubtful." City Manager Glenn Nichols said city staff has moved forward with investigating whether this would be a good economic move for the city, and it will be discussed by the City Council during the May 10 regular meeting. Nichols said the biggest concern remains accountability. "We have seen nothing in writing from the Department of Corrections that this would definitely be funded," he said. The second concern is the city's liability if the bond were to go into default. Corplan Corrections says there is no liability on the city's part, but Nichols said they are not completely sure. Nonetheless, the direction the city will take will depend on how the council votes on May 10. Nichols said the council will be presented the information, discuss it and vote to either move forward with the process or stop it. Corplan Corrections has painted a picture of great economic promise if Benson moves ahead with the project. In closed-door meetings with council members, Corplan has promised a federally funded facility that would house 500 women and children in the country illegally and would create up to 150 jobs. The city has also been told they would get an increased revenue stream of $218,000 a year. Similar facilities have been proposed in New Mexico and Texas, and one became a failure in Hardin, Mont., where the city signed off on $27 million in bonds in 2007 for a 200-bed facility. The facility was constructed, but to this day sits empty with no federal grant funding or per diem fees as promised by Corplan Corrections. Kim Hammond, mayor of Hardin, has warned cities like Benson to tread lightly when considering the proposals brought forth by private companies like Corplan.

April 23, 2010 Texas Observer
State Rep. Eddie Lucio III, a Brownsville Democrat, is following in his father's footsteps by joining forces with Corplan Corrections, a scandal-plagued prison development company. Lucio is representing Argyle, Texas-based Corplan Corrections in its bid to build an immigration family detention center in Weslaco, a Rio Grande Valley town that is in Rep. Lucio's district. State Sen. Eddie Lucio, Jr., also a Democrat Brownsville, “consulted” for Corplan in 2003 and 2004. Corplan and its CEO, James Parkey, specialize in selling desperate communities on risky government-financed prisons with promises of jobs and economic development. Typically, the company talks local governments into financing speculative jail facilities and then leaves the community to figure out how to keep them open. In recent years, Corplan has been at the center of numerous controversies, including a bizarre prison-building scheme in Hardin, Montana that involved a private military force called American Police Force run by an ex-con. The prison cost the small town $27 million but never housed any prisoners. In one of his latest gambits, Parkey has approached city officials in several towns across the U.S. – Benson, Arizona; Las Cruces, New Mexico; and Weslaco, Texas – with a proposal to build a new detention center for immigrant families. Parkey’s reputation, however, has caught up with him in Las Cruces and Benson, where officials have nixed the deal. That’s not the case in Weslaco. Weslaco Mayor Buddy de la Rosa told me that he was first introduced to Parkey two or so years ago and the project has been in the works ever since. Corplan, he said, is handling all the details. The company recently brought Rep. Lucio on as an attorney for the project. Weslaco is in Lucio’s district. In February, Lucio and Parkey spoke to the Weslaco City Commission and urged the commissioners to pass a resolution giving Corplan authorization to file a “grant application” for the facility, according to minutes from the meeting. (De la Rosa said he has not seen the application and doesn’t know to whom it will be submitted.) It might be a lousy deal for the city – if it's a deal at all. "James Parkey and Corplan are prison developers who get paid when a prison is built," said Bob Libal, an anti-private prison organizer with Grassroots Leadership. "It's not necessarily in their interest to make sure the prison project is successful." The Weslaco project is particularly fraught with risk, Libal says, because the Obama administration has all but done away with detaining immigrant families. In August 2009, federal officials removed immigrant families from the T. Don Hutto Residential Center, a privately-operated jail near Taylor that attracted international attention after advocates and detainees reported inhumane conditions. The Obama administration has also let Bush-era plans to add new family facilities expire, said Michelle Brane, director of detention and asylum programs at the Women's Refugee Commission. “To my knowledge – and I spoke specifically with Immigration and Customs Enforcement about this – they insist they don’t have any requests for proposal out there or any plans for building a new family detention facility,” said Brane. “I think they’re being duped frankly.” Mayor de la Rosa said that he wasn’t aware of the shift in federal policy but said it may explain why he hasn’t heard from Parkey or Lucio recently. “They have been remarkably quiet for the past several weeks,” he said. Representing Corplan appears to be a Lucio family business. According to Texas Ethics Commission filings, state Sen. Eddie Lucio, also a Brownsville Democrat, worked as a “consultant” for Corplan in 2003 and 2004 at a time when the company was part of a consortium of private prison interests seeking to build a 2,000-bed immigrant detention center in Raymondville, the seat of Willacy County. (I did a feature story on Raymondville's prison boom in 2006. You can read the whole gruesome story here.) During that time, Lucio also represented other corporate entities involved in the bid: prison construction company Hale-Mills, prison operator Management and Training Corp., and Aguirre, Inc. Here's what I wrote in 2006: The consortium needed a deal closer and found one in state Sen. Eddie Lucio Jr. The Brownsville Democrat had worked as a "consultant" for Corplan and Management & Training in 2003 and 2004, according to records filed with the Texas Ethics Commission. He had suspended his consulting work in 2005 in the aftermath of the bribery scandal, but Hale-Mills hired him this year for the federal detention center project. Lucio says Hale-Mills paid him "to figure out what kind of impact this will have on the community, to talk to the general public to see what their feel is." [Former Willacy County Attorney Juan] Guerra alleges that Lucio made multiple appearances in Raymondville pressuring the commissioners to select Management & Training over Corrections Corp. "As far as I'm concerned, had it not been for Eddie Lucio the commissioners would not have gone and put the county in a $60 million debt," Guerra says. "In my opinion, in his position as a senator he let our commissioners, including me, know where he stood... Once your senator lets you know what he wants, it's hard to go against [him]." In 2005, Lucio ended his consulting work with Corplan after two Willacy County commissioners pleaded guilty to accepting cash bribes in exchange for their votes to award a contract for another Raymondville prison. Amazingly, no one was ever indicted for supplying the bribe. Sen. Lucio no longer appears to be working for Corplan, at least according to personal financial disclosure statements for the last four years filed with the Ethics Commission. Rep. Lucio’s involvement with Corplan is not disclosed on his latest disclosure filing. The form was turned in on February 16th, the same day Lucio appeared at the Weslaco City Commission meeting. It's not clear why Corplan is not listed as a source of occupational income. For some, the whole thing stinks. “I think that raises some pretty serious questions especially when he’s presenting false information to a local body that’s in his district,” said Libal. “Does it break any law? I don’t know. Does it seem like a big conflict of interest? Yes.”

Coryell County Jail
Gatesville, Texas
Corplan, CiviGenics

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

Crystal City
Bobby Ross Group

June 4, 2003
City librarian Annette Lehmann doesn't really mind the FBI agents and Texas Rangers using her conference room day after day for interviews, but she wishes they'd check in with her first.  "It's during the day when there is really nothing going on, so it doesn't bother me. I'd just like to be told," she said.  "The Texas Rangers wear guns. That's how you can tell them apart," she added.  A little over a month after voters here gave the boot to a City Council faction that some accused of running the city like a totalitarian state, the winds of rumor and reform are both blowing hard.  The Rangers and federal agents are busy trying to make sense of a $14 million detention centers purchase the old administration rushed through with great secrecy early this year. They also are following other money trails at City Hall and at the city's economic development corporation. The $14 million purchase of a pair of prison facilities from the Bobby Ross Group in Austin remains the big mystery.  "We still don't know exactly where the money went," Mayor Raul Gomez said of the mammoth deal. "People are just waiting to find out what happened. It's like they say, 'I hope they (the investigators) don't find anything, but if they do, I hope something is done about it,'" he said.  Both the FBI in Del Rio and District Attorney Roberto Serna in Eagle Pass have declined to discuss their investigations in Crystal City. Sources say that so far nearly a dozen people have been interviewed and numerous records have been subpoenaed. The sale was financed by high interest bonds sold without a referendum through a public facilities corporation, and the closing was at a title company in Austin.  An enigmatic key figure in the detention centers deal was Mario Hernandez, 64, a former city councilman whose name is on the bronze dedication plaque on City Hall dated 1963.  Hernandez earned thousands in Crystal City as a consultant to the economic development corporation for cheese factory and tire recycling deals that have yet to bear fruit. But when he hit the jackpot on the detention centers deal, he was working for someone else.  Acting as a representative of the Bobby Ross Group, which sold the detention centers to the city, Hernandez made hundreds of thousands of dollars when the deal closed.  "He was paid $300,000 when the bonds were sold," said Tim Kurpiewski, a Bobby Ross vice-president in Austin, who said Hernandez made additional money on the deal that he would not disclose.  After the prison facilities were sold to the city, Hernandez sought to be hired to a $120,000-a-year city job overseeing the operating contract with Bobby Ross Group.  However, since the change on the City Council, he has dropped out of view.  Contacted by telephone this weekend, Hernandez declined to be interviewed.  Hernandez's background is of special interest to authorities.  In the early 1990s he served 32 months in federal prison for convictions in a credit card scam in Wisconsin and for harboring undocumented immigrants in San Antonio.  In that case, authorities accused him of keeping Mexican immigrants locked in a shed on Rigsby Avenue and releasing them in the daytime to work as laborers.  According to the Bexar County Sheriff's Department, Hernandez is wanted on an active misdemeanor warrant for theft of service under $500.  Former Crystal City Mayor Frank Moreno, who last fall asked the FBI to look into the city government's activities, was elected to the council this spring.  He said the outside probes are essential to clear the air.  "The people are glad that finally some type of investigations are started, and they are definitely glad that both the FBI and the Rangers are involved," Moreno said.  (San Antonio Express-News)

February 25, 2003
The forced removal of a council member from a City Council meeting has ignited a political battle over whether Crystal City's government is operating in the open.  At the recent February meeting of the council, member Raul Gomez began questioning City Manager Eleazar Salinas about city expenditures. Mayor Jody Cerda told him he was out of order.  "I was told by the mayor I should not be asking those questions, and I said, as a councilman, I have the right to ask about bills and invoices," Gomez told the San Antonio Express-News for a story in Monday's edition.  Gomez refused to be silenced.  "If someone from the public wants to talk about something, they need to give 10-day notice to the city manager, and if he thinks it's fit, he'll put it on the agenda," Gomez told the Express-News.  The newspaper reported that Cerda's critics were worried by the recent sale of $14 million in bonds to buy two detention centers near Crystal City from the private company that operates them. It reported the council approved the deal with the Bobby Ross Group last month with almost no public comment or release of information. The council also turned away questions from the public.  Gomez and Macias, who opposed the detention center deal, said they were given no information before the purchase. Even now, more than a month later, they said they haven't seen complete financial documentation.  The purchase was done through a recently created, Cerda-led public facilities corporation that sold the high-interest bonds. Documents examined by the Express-News showed the facilities corporation paid $9 million for the centers, plus the surrounding 75 acres. The Zavala County appraiser values the centers at $6 million, the newspaper reported.  The lease-purchase deal included a $1.1 million payment back to Crystal City, with $300,000 apparently going to the city and $800,000 to the city's economic development corporation - also led by Cerda, the newspaper reported.  In a separate contract, the Bobby Ross Group will still operate the centers, with revenue generated by the centers going directly to pay down the bonds, the newspaper reported.  (AP)

Dallas County Jail
Dallas, Texas
Aramark, Keefe, Mid-America

October 11, 2006  The Dallas Morning News
Dallas County commissioners voted Tuesday for the first time to award a jail commissary contract, ending a tradition in which the sheriff decided who gets the lucrative deal to sell snacks and other items to more than 7,000 inmates. The roughly $34 million, five-year contract awarded to Keefe Commissary Network is expected to generate more money for the county than the existing contract. County officials who didn't like how the former sheriff handled the awarding of the existing commissary contract moved to get state law changed last year to allow commissioners to decide the commissary vendor. The new law allows the sheriff to designate commissioners to decide the contract. Sheriff Lupe Valdez didn't want to be involved because of past problems, her spokesman has said. Keefe, a St. Louis company, estimated that annual revenue to the county based on sales of snacks, pens, toiletries, playing cards and other items would be about $2.6 million, which is almost four times what the current contractor provides. That contractor, Mid-America Services, was given the contract in 2002 by then-Sheriff Jim Bowles, who was a longtime friend of the owner, Jack Madera. At the time, commissioners complained that other companies offered better financial terms. Commissioner Kenneth Mayfield cast the sole vote against the contract award, saying Aramark offered a better value to the county. He said Aramark offered a slightly higher commission rate as well as $1 million in upfront money, to be paid out each year of the contract. But Commissioner John Wiley Price said Keefe guaranteed the county at least $2 million each year. "The numbers speak for themselves," he said. Mr. Mayfield also said Keefe did not disclose to the county its involvement in a federal corruption investigation in Florida involving a prison contract until after the Justice Department issued a news release about it in July. The county's request for proposals required such a disclosure. The former head of the Florida corrections department and a prison official were charged in July with accepting more than $130,000 in kickbacks from a Keefe subcontractor over two years in connection with a 2003 prison-store contract. "There's a lot of smoke there," Mr. Mayfield said. "I find it incredulous that Keefe did not know they were under investigation in 2004 and 2005." No knowledge: Keefe's chief executive wrote in a July 31 letter to purchasing supervisor Linda Boles that the company had no knowledge of illegal activity related to the case. In a Sept. 11 letter, U.S. Attorney Paul Perez in Florida wrote that Keefe and its employees are considered witnesses in the investigation but that could change. "Nothing in this letter ... shall preclude the United States from later determining that Keefe or any of its employees are subjects or targets of this investigation," he wrote. It isn't the only controversy in which the company has been involved. In 2004, Keefe was found to have charged sales tax on some items that aren't taxable in Texas in connection with a Collin County jail commissary contract. As a result, almost 600 inmates were overcharged more than $5,000, records showed. Because of the error, the Collin County sheriff awarded the contract to a different firm.

October 4, 2006 Dallas Morning News
Dallas County commissioners on Tuesday unanimously approved the first phase of a plan to provide more clinical space inside the jail for inmate medical and mental health needs. The county's selection committee recommended that St. Louis-based Keefe Commissary Network be awarded the five-year contract to sell snacks, toiletries and other items to the more than 7,000 inmates. The company's bid calls for a 40 percent commission on sales or $2 million in guaranteed annual revenue for the county, whichever is greater. Revenue under the current vendor has averaged about $670,600 a year over the last three years, according to the county auditor. "It shows what can come from a very well-run procurement process," Mr. Clemson said. Keefe disclosed to the county that it currently is under investigation by the U.S. Department of Justice over kickbacks its subcontractor is accused of paying to the former head of corrections in Florida in connection with a prison contract.

December 15, 2003
An investigation into the Dallas County sheriff and his dealings with a jail vendor has expanded to include three other North Texas counties that have contracts with the vendor, according to a published report.   Court records obtained by the Dallas Morning News show that the campaign finance records of Denton County Sheriff Weldon Lucas were recently subpoenaed by Chris Milner, who is overseeing the probe of Dallas County Sheriff Jim Bowles.  Officials in Tarrant and Nueces counties told the newspaper that Milner had also subpoenaed jail commissary and election records there.  Milner is investigating whether Bowles improperly awarded the Sheriff Department's commissary contract to Jack Madera of Mid-America Services based on reports published by the newspaper in September. Milner, an assistant district attorney in Collin County, declined the newspaper's request for comment.  Bowles accepted meals and travel expenses worth thousands of dollars from Madera from 1999 to 2001. In 2002 he awarded Madera the department's commissary contract even though other vendors offered higher commissions to the department.  The sheriff said he repaid Madera for all expenses except the meals, but hasn't shown proof of those reimbursements.  Lucas awarded Mid-America Denton County's jail commissary contract that same year under similar circumstances, the newspaper reported Thursday.  (AP)

September 22, 2003
Dallas County Sheriff Jim Bowles accepted meals, airfare and hotel rooms worth thousands of dollars from commissary vendor Jack Madera in the two years before he awarded Madera's company a contract to sell goods in the jail, The Dallas Morning News reported Sunday.  Bowles told the newspaper that he reimbursed Madera or his companies for any expenses except lunches. He said he didn't keep copies of checks that would show the reimbursement.  "I don't keep copies of checks anticipating this," the sheriff said. "No one has ever questioned my integrity before."  Bowles has occasionally acted on behalf of Madera, accompanying him on visits to solicit business from other sheriffs, according to interviews.  At a fund-raiser for the sheriff last week, Madera declined to be interviewed.  Bowles awarded the five-year contract to Mid-America Services Inc., Madera's company, in June 2002.  The commissary sells snacks, soft drinks and other products to inmates. The department receives a portion of the $4 million in projected annual revenue to pay for some inmate programs and jail costs.  Madera's bid was worth about $600,000 in annual revenue to the sheriff's department.  Other bidders offered a minimum of $1 million, according to county records.  After county commissioners criticized the deal, Bowles said he was friends with Madera. He later backed off that description and now says they interact only about business.  Between October 1999 and November 2001, Madera paid for 72 meals totaling $3,698 at which Bowles or his top aide, Executive Chief Deputy Larry Forsyth, often were the only guests, according to financial records provided by Madera's former company.  Madera paid $789 for airfare and hotels for Bowles to attend the 2000 and 2001 Sheriffs' Association of Texas conferences in Lubbock and Corpus Christi. Madera also paid $150 for plane tickets for Bowles' wife to attend the 2001 conference.  Madera's new company advanced the sheriff $1,211 for airfare and registration for this year's National Sheriffs' Association annual conference in Nashville, Tenn., an expense the sheriff later reimbursed with campaign funds.  The Morning News obtained Madera's expenses from Mid-States Services, one of the companies that Bowles passed up to award the commissary contract to Mid-America. Madera founded Mid-States almost 20 years ago and sold it in February 1999.  John F. Sammons Jr., the chairman and chief executive officer of Mid-States, said he provided the records because they show that Bowles is too close to Madera.  "Sheriff Bowles has never accepted one red cent from Jack Madera," said Clayton P. Henry, the sheriff's campaign consultant. "We consider this to be sour grapes on the part of John Sammons."  Some officials said the sheriff has occasionally worked on behalf of Madera. In 1999, Bowles and Madera paid a visit to Travis County Sheriff Margo Frasier.  "It was one of those kinds of deals where Jim was introducing me to Jack and saying Jack wanted to talk to me about my commissary business," Frasier said. "Jim Bowles was there for the introduction."  (AP)

July 3, 2002
Several Dallas County commissioners accuse Sheriff Jim Bowles of awarding a $20 million jail commissary contract to a longtime friend over bidders who offered far better financial terms for the department. A five-year contract was awarded last month to Mid-America Services Inc., owned by Jack Madera, to sell pens, toothpaste, chips and other items to about 7,000 inmates at Dallas County jails. The contract would generate about $4 million a year, with $600,000 a year going to the Sheriff's Department starting July 15, according to county officials. But two of the unsuccessful bidders, Swanson Services Corp. and Mid-States Services Inc., said they offered to give the Sheriff's Department at least $1.2 million a year. He said Bowles, who has been in office 17 years, has a long relationship with Madera but showed "no favoritism whatsoever" in awarding the contract to his friend. Commissioners contend that Bowles, 73, has declined to turn over bid documents from the four vendors.

Dallas School District
Dallas, Texas
Community Education Partners

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

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

Danville Center for Adolescent Females
Danville, Texas
Cornell

August 8, 2005 Danville News
Texas-based Cornell Abraxas will not renew its contract with the state to provide youth treatment services at the Danville Center for Adolescent Females. The company has run the facility since 1998, but has chosen not to continue its management, citing a lack of infrastructure support.

Dawson State Jail
Dallas, Texas
CCA
Mar 21, 2014 prisonlegalnews.org

AUSTIN, TX – Yesterday, a Travis County District Court held that Corrections Corporation of America (CCA), the nation’s largest for-profit prison company, is a “governmental body” for purposes of the Texas Public Information Act and therefore subject to the “Act’s obligations to disclose public information.” The court entered its ruling on a motion for summary judgment filed by Prison Legal News (PLN), a monthly publication that reports on criminal justice-related issues and a project of the non-profit Human Rights Defense Center. PLN had filed suit against CCA on May 1, 2013 after the company refused to disclose records related to the now-closed Dawson State Jail in Dallas, including reports, investigations and audits regarding CCA’s operation of the facility – records that would have unquestionably been made public had the jail been operated by a government agency. “This is one of the many failings of private prisons,” said PLN managing editor Alex Friedmann. “By contracting with private companies, corrections officials interfere with the public’s right to know what is happening in prisons and jails, even though the contracts are funded with taxpayer money. This lack of transparency contributes to abuses and misconduct by for-profit companies like CCA, which prefer secrecy over public accountability.” CCA currently operates nine facilities in Texas, including four that house state prisoners. “The conditions of Texas prisons have been the focus of intense public scrutiny for nearly 40 years,” stated Brian McGiverin, an attorney with the Texas Civil Rights Project. “Today’s ruling is a victory for transparency and responsible government. Texans have a right to know what their government is doing, even when a private company is hired to do it.” In its summary judgment motion, PLN argued that CCA meets the definition of a “governmental body” under the Texas Public Information Act, Section 552.003 of the Texas Government Code, because, among other factors, the company “shares a common purpose and objective to that of the government” and performs services “traditionally performed by governmental bodies.” In the latter regard, PLN noted that “Incarceration is inherently a power of government. By using public money to perform a public function, CCA is a governmental body for purposes” of the Texas Public Information Act. CCA’s argument to the contrary – that it is not a governmental body and does not have to comply with public records requests – was rejected by the court. CCA had also argued that the taxpayer funds received from the State of Texas “are not necessarily used specifically for operating Texas facilities,” and that such payments “are used generally to support CCA’s corporate allocations throughout the United States.” PLN previously prevailed in a similar public records lawsuit filed against CCA in Tennessee, where the firm is headquartered; another records suit is pending against CCA in Vermont. The company has vigorously opposed lawsuits requiring it to comply with public records laws. “CCA and other private prison companies should not be able to hide behind closed corporate doors when they contract with government agencies to perform public services using taxpayer money,” said PLN editor Paul Wright. PLN was ably represented by attorneys Cindy Saiter Connolly with Scott, Douglass & McConnico, LLP and Brian McGiverin with the Texas Civil Rights Project. The case is Prison Legal News v. CCA, Travis County District Court, 353rd Judicial District, Cause No. D-1-GN-13-001445.

 

Mar 21, 2014 grassrootsleadership.org

BOISE — Several Idaho and national faith, human and civil rights, social justice, labor, and criminal justice reform organizations delivered a letter to Idaho officials calling for the return of the 236 Idaho prisoners currently being held in a for-profit, private prison — the Kit Carson Correctional Center — in Burlington, CO.  The Colorado prison’s operator, Corrections Corporation of America (CCA), is the same company that admitted to falsifying thousands of staffing hours at the Idaho Correctional Center (ICC) and is now the subject of an FBI criminal investigation for its management of the Idaho facility. “It took months of investigative research, a trial and a contempt hearing to hold CCA accountable for cheating Idaho taxpayers and creating a ‘Gladiator School’ at an Idaho Correctional facility,”  said Monica Hopkins, Executive Director of the ACLU of Idaho, “and yet Idaho officials continue rewarding this kind of deceptive and abhorrent behavior by extending their contract with CCA to ship Idahoans out of state. If we can’t trust them in our backyard, how can we trust them over 1,000 miles away?” Letter signatories argue that CCA is untrustworthy and Idaho prisoners’ safety and well-being are at risk under CCA’s management.  In light of Governor Otter returning control of the ICC back to the state, they now urge Idaho officials to immediately end the contract with CCA to house prisoners across state lines and cut ties with CCA once and for all. "It defies comprehension why the state of Idaho continues to do business with CCA — a company that has admitted defrauding the state, which ran a facility with levels of violence four times higher than all other Idaho state prisons combined, and which is currently the subject of an FBI criminal investigation,” said Alex Friedmann, Associate Director of the Human Rights Defense Center. “In any other context, the state would have severed its relationship with such a company. It is time to do so now with respect to Idaho's contract to house state prisoners in a CCA-run facility in Colorado, located far from their families." The letter also cites a national report released last November, which demonstrated that sending prisoners out-of-state impedes prisoner rehabilitation by diminishing supportive ties to family and community, a component research has shown to contribute to better behavior and reduce recidivism.  “This practice of shipping prisoners out of sight and mind to address prison overcrowding must come to an end,” said Holly Kirby, author of the report and organizer at Grassroots Leadership.  “For too long and with little public scrutiny, state leaders have slapped this costly bandaid on a problem that requires sustainable solutions to reduce the number of people behind bars.” Furthermore, signatories of the letter argue that alternatives exist, highlighting a January 2014 report, Justice Reinvestment in Idaho: Analyses and Policy Framework, which showed that Idaho prison space is currently being used inefficiently — with people convicted of nonviolent crimes and eligible for parole occupying prison beds rather than being released.  Releasing these low-risk individuals would free up the much needed in-state capacity to bring prisoners home from the out-of-state CCA facility. Organizations that signed on urging Idaho officials to bring prisoners home from a private prison in Colorado include American Civil Liberties Union - Idaho, Idaho Public Employees Association, National Association of Social Workers - Idaho, The Sentencing Project, Grassroots Leadership, In the Public Interest, Justice Policy Institute, United Methodist Church - General Board of Church and Society, American Civil Liberties Union, and Human Rights Defense Center.  See the letter with full list of signatories HERE.


August 2, 2013 texastribune.org

Male detainees work to fix a cell door inside of the Dawson State Jail in Dallas on Jul. 31, 2013. The Texas Department of Criminal Justice decided not to renew its contract with the Corrections Corporation of America for the Dawson State Jail after the state legislature struck 97 million dollars from its funding. The unit will begin relocating its offenders on Aug. 1, 2013, and expects to have all offenders relocated by the end of the month. The demise of the Mineral Wells Pre-Parole Transfer Facility, which officially closes at the end of this month, is a major economic disappointment for the community that has been its host for more than 15 years. But the closing of the Dawson State Jail in Dallas, which will also happen this month, comes as a relief for many in the city, and might even result in a financial windfall. For only the second time in the state’s history, Texas lawmakers are closing inmate facilities to reduce bed capacity as the state’s prison population continues to drop. The decision by legislators this year to close two privately run jails operated by the Corrections Corporation of America is being met with very different reactions in the communities where the jails are situated. Since 2011, Texas’ prison population has fallen to about 150,800 from more than 156,000, bringing the total of empty beds to about 12,000 statewide, said state Sen. John Whitmire, D-Houston, the chairman of the Senate Criminal Justice Committee. Improved diversion programs and alternatives to incarceration have fueled the downward trend, he added. “The logical thing to do is to look to close facilities you don’t need,” Whitmire said. In 2011, the state shut the aging Central Unit in Sugar Land, a Houston suburb. When lawmakers started the regular legislative session in January, advocates for criminal justice reform and the prison employees’ union urged them to consider ending the state’s contracts at the Dawson jail and the Mineral Wells unit. “Both facilities received a lot of very serious complaints,” said Scott Medlock, a prisoners’ rights program director and lawyer at the Texas Civil Rights Project. Lawmakers eventually agreed, and sliced nearly $97 million from the Texas Department of Criminal Justice budget. The department’s board officially decided to terminate its contracts for the two facilities with the Corrections Corporation of America when they expire on Aug. 31. Jason Clark, a department spokesman, said the decision to close both privately run facilities was based on a number of factors, including safety and security at the units. All of the inmates who were at the Mineral Wells jail have been transferred to other facilities, he said. The transfer of inmates from the Dawson unit began on Thursday, and Clark said it would be emptied by the end of the month. Established in 1997, Dawson State Jail — which is near the Trinity River, on the outskirts of downtown Dallas — can house about 2,200 inmates, including nearly 1,400 women. After the deaths of at least two female inmates and a newborn baby, the facility came under increased scrutiny in the last year, and faced lawsuits over the health care it provided to inmates. In January, a group of civil rights advocates urged lawmakers to take notice of poor conditions and of a 2012 health services audit that found conditions at the facility that did not meet the terms of the Corrections Corporation of America’s contract. The corporation has defended its oversight of Dawson. In an emailed statement in January, the company said that the University of Texas Medical Branch provided health care at the Dawson jail and that the company took seriously its responsibility to oversee that care. “It’s unfortunate that these organizations are so closed-minded when it comes to facts and perspectives that might challenge their political agendas,” said Steve Owen, a company spokesman, responding to civil rights groups’ letter. “CCA simply provides safe inmate housing and quality rehabilitation programming at a cost savings to Texas taxpayers.” But Dallas city leaders did not come to the company’s defense in the Legislature. The jail is among a number of impediments to the Trinity River Corridor Project, a redevelopment effort that has long been in the works for the area. The project involves a 20-mile span of urban development that includes houses, waterfront condominiums, office buildings and shops and restaurants. Sen. Royce West, D-Dallas, said he was unaware of any plans to sell the prison, and he said any talk of moving forward with development in its place anytime soon was “speculation.” But West did say that the closing of the Dawson jail was welcome news because of concerns about conditions there. “If there’s going to be a conversation about repurposing the facility,” he said, “the community needs to be involved in that.” Clark, the criminal justice department spokesman, said no decisions had been made about the future of the jails, and that the agency intended to work with both local and state officials. By contrast, in Mineral Wells, about 80 miles west of Dallas, local officials lobbied lawmakers vigorously to keep the state facility running. The jail, at what had once been a U.S. Army base, can house up to 2,100 inmates. It opened in 1989. “It’s going to have a significant impact on our economy,” said Lance Howerton, the city manager of Mineral Wells. He said that the city would lose up to 300 jobs, $80,000 annually in local property taxes and $800,00 annually in water and sewer sales. Howerton said that all told, city officials expected the economic impact to be about $40 million annually. Corrections Corporation has become a partner in the community, Howerton said, offering scholarships each year for high school seniors and providing inmate labor for city projects and to help tend the local state park. “Being a small community, most everyone here knows of someone” affected by the closing, Howerton said. Along with city officials, local lawmakers and lobbyists for the Corrections Corporation also fought unsuccessfully to keep the Mineral Wells facility open. Howerton called the decision to close it shortsighted. With the state’s ever-increasing population, Howerton said, there is sure to be a need for more prison beds in the future. But Whitmire said he was confident that the state’s continued focus on rehabilitation and diversion programs would keep the prison population from expanding. Even if it did, he said, the Mineral Wells facility would be a poor choice to house inmates because of security concerns. The jail, which was not built as a place to put inmates, has long had problems with contraband. At one point, Whitmire said, officials hung a net above one side of the facility to keep passers-by from tossing items over the fence. Lawmakers said they were expecting to save nearly$97 million by closing the two facilities — money that Whitmire said could be more wisely spent on the criminal justice system. “We’re running a good program,” he said, “but we still have some flaws we’ve got to fix.”

 

May 12, 2013 www.gosanangelo.com

AUSTIN — Texas Senate and House budget negotiators have tentatively agreed to close two privately run state prisons. The Texas Board of Criminal Justice would decide which two prisons to shutter under the Friday’s agreement, the Austin American-Statesman reported. The Senate, in its state budget plan, had targeted a 2,100-bed transfer facility in Mineral Wells and a 2,200-bed state jail in Dallas for closure. The House, in its plan, had allocated funding for each. Under new wording in the budget bills, legislators agreed to cut $97 million from the criminal justice budget. That’s the amount it costs to run the Dawson State Jail in Dallas and the Mineral Wells Pre-Parole Transfer Facility, although the budget bill won’t specifically name those two lockups. The conflicting budget proposals and feuding lawmakers in both chambers had endangered the entire state criminal justice budget. The newspaper, without naming them, said legislative leaders are in agreement on closing Dawson, but that Mineral Wells representatives are pushing to keep their facility open, saying it would harm the economy in the city about 75 miles west of Dallas. State Sen. John Whitmire, chairman of the Senate Criminal Justice Committee, has campaigned to close the two units for more than two years. They are both operated by the Corrections Corp. of America under a contract with the state. Whitmire contends that the state already has 12,000 unused prison beds and the two aren’t needed. Brad Livingston, executive director of the Department of Criminal Justice, wrote Whitmire earlier this month that the design of Mineral Wells, built as a military barracks and not a prison, made it a top candidate for closing. The design causes security and safety code considerations, Livingston said. Its location adjacent to a park, college and private land also contributes to security concerns, he said. Prison records show frequent instances of contraband drugs and cellphones tossed over the prison fence. It opened in 1989 at a time when Texas prisons were under federal court control because of crowding and was intended as a holding site for parolees heading out. Livingston says his agency has been planning to not renew its contract for Mineral Wells after it expires in August.


May 3, 2013 www.thecrimereport.org

The Corrections Corporation of America, which runs 12 Texas prison facilities, is facing a lawsuit from a publication that says it is failing to release information related to deaths and health care at the Dawson State Jail in Dallas, reports the Texas Tribune. The prison is one of several the legislature is considering for closure because of a declining prison population. The lawsuit, filed in state court in Austin, seeks to force the company to comply with an open records request that was filed in March by Prison Legal News, a monthly magazine based in Vermont that focuses on prisoner rights. The magazine says it is trying to "enforce its right under state law to investigate patterns of unconscionable and unconstitutional conditions in corporate-run jails." "This lawsuit is about the truth," said Brian McGiverin, a Texas Civil Rights Project lawyer for Prison Legal News. "They hide the truth because they know the truth is horrifying." Lawmakers are considering whether to close Dawson State Jail in the current budget, an effort spearheaded by state Sen. John Whitmire, along with the American Federation oif State County Municipal Employees.


May 1, 2013 statesman.com

Two civil-rights advocacy groups on Wednesday filed a lawsuit in Travis County district court alleging one of the nation’s largest private prison companies is refusing to make public details about deaths and injuries in its Texas lockups. The suit filed by the Prison Legal News, a subsidiary of the nonprofit Human Rights Defense Center, and the Texas Civil Rights Project state in the suit thatthey requested information from Nashville-based Corrections Corporation of America under the Texas Public Information Act concerning its Texas contracts, lawsuits filed over its Texas operations and information about settlements and other legal filings. According to the suit, the company declined to respond to the request. Steve Owen, CCA’s senior director of public affairs, said “We will review the complaint and determine the appropriate course of action.” The filing of the suit came as the closure of two CCA-run state lockups — the Dawson State Jail in Dallas and the Mineral Wells Pre-Parole Center — is being considered by the Texas Legislature. Legislative opponents of the closures said the suit was timed to push for approval of the closures. In a press release announcing the filing of the suit, the Texas Civil Rights Project alleged that by refusing the release the records, CCA is “covering up the deaths of seven people at the Dawson State Jail while denying hundreds of women access to medical care. “ CCA has previously denied those claims. In their lawsuit, the two groups seek a court order requiring CCA to make the records public. No hearing date has been set.


Mar 12, 2013 dallasnews.com

Just weeks ago the Texas Observer branded the Jesse R. Dawson State Jail on the banks of the Trinity River near downtown Dallas as “Texas’ worst state jail,” citing, among other things, poor conditions and inadequate medical treatment that “in a few cases led to deaths.” Among them: Autumn Miller’s premature baby, a girl named Gracie born after just 26 weeks of gestation. Autumn told KTVT-Channel 11 in July that guards at the privately operated jail, which is owned by Corrections Corporation of America, refused her cries for medical attention. She says the guards gave her a menstrual pad and locked her in a cell. She says they told her she just had to go to the bathroom. As a result, Miller says in a lawsuit filed Friday in Dallas federal court, on June 14, 2012, “She looked down and watched, in horror, as she delivered baby Gracie into the toilet.” The infant lived for four days and died in her mother’s arms. “Within an hour of Gracie’s death,” says the suit, “CCA employees took Autumn back to Dawson.” Autumn, who was sent to Dawson State Jail in February 2012 to serve one year for violating probation on a drug-possession charge, and her attorneys, Paula Sweeney of Dallas and Suzanne Kaplan of Austin, are claiming negligence and cruel and unusual punishment in the suit filed last week. The complaint follows in full below. The suit alleges CCA guards did nothing to help Miller, before or after she gave birth to her baby; she claims it took guards 15 minutes just to find the key to get into her cell, and that “several CCA employees came into the holding cell while Gracie lay there helpless next to her bleeding mother.” She alleges one guard videotaped the whole ordeal. Finally at the hospital, says the suit, Autumn — a nonviolent offender — “was still handcuffed and shackled” when allowed to visit with her baby. “As a result of Defendants’ deliberate indifference to their serious medical needs, failure to follow the existing telemedicine policy, failure to adequately supervise and train its employees to follow the telemedicine policy, and to supervise and train its officers and agents to act in an emergency,” says the suit, “Autumn is traumatized and Gracie is dead.” The suit was filed just days after a coalition of state and national groups issued “Dawson State Jail: The Case for Closure,” which mentions Gracie’s death while making the case that the jail’s an unsafe place. State legislators have also begun to push for the jail’s closure, insisting it just isn’t needed with a dwindling state jail population. And the city of Dallas wants the jail closed in order to develop the property along the Trinity River.

 

February 27, 2013 reporternews.com

If the nation’s largest correctional officers union gets its way, then the empty multimillion-dollar Jones County lock up will soon house a little more than 1,000 minimum-security state inmates from the privately run  in Jacksboro. Built in 2010, the $35-million, 1,100- bed capacity prison in Jones County sits empty at the edge of Anson, a town of 2,422. It was supposed to create nearly 200 jobs with a $5 million annual boost to the local economy. On Wednesday, the American Federation of State County Municipal Employees — Texas Correctional Employees operates under that umbrella — called on state legislators to end three contracts with the Correctional Corporation of America, citing abuses and poor management. Along with Lindsey in Jacksboro, two other private prisons included on the proposed chopping block are Dawson State Jail in Dallas and Mineral Wells Pre-Parole Transfer Facility. The union’s local 3807 chapter president, Lance Lowry, said the proposal calls for the Jones County facility to be run by the Texas Department of Criminal Justice and house the Lindsey inmates starting Sept. 1, should the state opt to not renew the private contract. Inmates from the other private prisons also will be moved to state-run facilities. Lowry said about 25 state and national organizations are calling for the closure of Dawson for “extreme abuses, and other medical abuses,” accusing Correctional Corporation of America of having a history of abusive practices. “There were three female inmates that died there and a baby last year, and all of the incidents were easily preventable” Lowry said. “What we’re finding is that these private facilities are not paying their staff the equivalent of what the state pays correctional officers.” U.S. Department of Labor data indicate the median annual wage for correctional officers by the state is $38,850. In contrast, officers employed in privately operated prisons earned a median salary of $28,790. In 2011, the TDCJ derailed plans to house inmates at Jones County facility when it terminated a contract with the county. More than 30,000 of the state’s 93,000 county beds sit empty — both at county jails and at centers built through county-private partnerships, like Anson, according to the Texas Commission on Jail Standards. “Jones County will come out better from this deal, than with a private prison in their community,” Lowry said. “And we don’t want another (private) facility to open to open up. That’s going to be disastrous like the other ones.” Lowry said the union notified Jones County officials about the proposal.


December 4, 2012  Dallas Business Journal by Lance Murray

A Houston lawmaker is proposing the closure of a privately-run prison in Dallas. State Sen. John Whitmire, D-Houston, and a union representing prison employees are proposing the closure of the privately run Dawson State Jail in Dallas and the the Mineral Wells Pre-Parole Transfer Facility, the Texas Tribune reported. The lawmaker and the union said the state doesn't need the facilities and closing them would be a way to save money. Whitmire said the state has an excess of prison beds because of improved diversion programs and alternatives to imprisonment. Whitmire said the Dawson State Jail sits on prime land in downtown Dallas, and local officials would like to have the land for development. Lance Murray edits and writes for the DBJ's website and can be reached at 214-706-7106

July 10, 2012 CBS 11 News
CBS 11 has learned a baby was prematurely born last month at the Dawson Jail in downtown Dallas, apparently with no medically trained personnel in attendance. The baby lived four days. In an exclusive interview with CBS 11, Doctor Owen Murray, Vice President of Offender Health Services at the University of Texas Medical Branch at Galveston, said there is no state requirement to have medically trained personnel at Dawson between 5 p.m. and 5 a.m., which was the period in which Autumn Miller gave birth to her daughter, Gracie. It was the latest development in a series of stories CBS 11 has been investigating on the medical care provided to inmates at the privately-run prison facility. In our first report, a severely diabetic woman died after her family said she became ill in the jail. Her cries for help to guards went ignored, according to her family. In our next report, a young woman died of pneumonia after personnel at Dawson failed, according to her family, to furnish her with the antibiotics she needed. After our second story aired, Jean Burr contacted CBS 11. Burr is a grandmother with a dozen grandchildren. She called us the day after her family buried her newest granddaughter. It was a little girl, with a name that conveyed her brief life, Gracie. “She was here by the grace of God and gone the same way,” her grandmother said. Gracie came into the world in an unlikely place: Dawson State Jail. The facility holds non-violent criminals who commit minor crimes. Gracie’s mother, Autumn Miller, was convicted of a drug charge, violated her probation and got a year behind bars. Miller arrived at Dawson in January. She has three other children and knew what it felt like to be pregnant. “Three weeks before the baby was born, she had requested a pregnancy test and pap smear, because she had not had a period since she had been there and she was feeling unwell. She didn’t know what was wrong, but she was not feeling right,“ Burr said. Officials at Dawson will not tell CBS 11 News whether they have any records of Autumn Miller requesting a pregnancy test. Dawson State Jail is run by a private company called Corrections Corporation of America (CCA). CCA will not respond to our questions about what occurred inside the jail on June 14, 2012. But Burr says her daughter tells a chilling story of what happened during the early morning hours when she began to bleed and cramp inside the jail and had trouble walking. “They took her down to the medical unit on a stretcher. When she got there, there was a doctor on the screen,” Burr said. But Miller told her mother that the doctor, who was available through a teleconference, never had a chance to see her. “The lady that was down there in the medical unit in charge told the doctor they did not need him for this patient and they just turned this off … She was crying, complaining that she was feeling pressure, pain, bleeding and something was bad wrong. They needed to do something,” Burr told CBS 11. “One of the guards in there made the comment that, ‘Oh, it is probably the food, you probably need to go poo.’ They gave her a menstrual pad, locked her in a holding cell and closed the door. And then she went in there and pressure was so bad she went to the toilet…,” Gracie’s grandmother said. What happened next, according to Burr, has changed all of their lives forever. And, she says, it was something no one at the jail was prepared to handle at that time. After Miller went to the bathroom, “the baby came out and went into the toilet and she started screaming,” Burr said. Tiny Gracie was born premature on June 14 at just 26 weeks. She weighed a little more than a pound. Ambulances rushed Gracie and Miller to Parkland Hospital where doctors worked against the odds to save Gracie. Pictures from the hospital show Miller holding her newborn, snuggled in a pink blanket, near to her chest. Miller, still in handcuffs, holds the little girl’s hands. By day three, Miller, Burr and other family members had hope that Gracie had a fighting chance of surviving. But after four days, doctors told them Gracie was beyond all help. So she made the decision to let the baby go; Autumn held her while she took her last breath and heartbeats. And they pronounced her dead at 5:30. “And shortly after 6, (Autumn) was on her way back to Dawson,” Burr said. Once at the jail, Miller was placed in solitary confinement for two days, her mother, overwhelmed with emotions, said. “This is still a woman with the afterbirth and bleeding and stitches where she’d had a tubal … and they locked her in there for two days … and then they took her to see a psychiatrist and said, ‘Well, you’ve been on suicide watch,’ “ Burr said. Burr, grief stricken by the loss of her granddaughter, contacted CBS 11 after learning that the station had been investigating the medical care at Dawson, and the circumstances leading up to the deaths of other inmates at the facility. “I understand that their freedom and their rights have been taken because they have done things to cause that….(But) this could have been prevented,” Burr said, as tears welled up in her eyes. “No baby should be born in a toilet in prison.” Burr tells CBS 11 she believes that if Autumn had been given the pregnancy test that she requested, things would have turned out differently. “Then three weeks later they would have known she was having a baby,” Burr said. “She could have been in a medical unit. She could have had the treatment she should have been having. And maybe Gracie would still be with us,” the grandmother said. Fighting back tears and still devastated by the loss of her newest grandchild, she clings to an album of the pictures the hospital took of them all together over the four days Gracie lived. “It would have changed the outcome of what will be with Autumn for the rest of her life to live with. She’s going to see that baby being born in that toilet – and die — for the rest of her life … she didn’t deserve that,” Burr said. Miller’s lawyer told CBS 11 he did not want Miller speaking to us while she is still at Dawson. She is scheduled to be released in November. Neither CCA nor the Texas Department of Criminal Justice will answer our specific questions about the incident that occurred on June 14 or about the deaths of the other inmates.

June 14, 2012 CBS
Ashleigh Shae Parks, 30, died just six weeks before she was scheduled to be released from Dawson State Jail in downtown Dallas, a low security facility for people convicted of non-violent crimes. Parks was serving an 18-month sentence for drug possession. “My little sister lived long enough for my mother to make it to her bedside,” recalled Keith Grady. Ashleigh Parks’ brother says he didn’t know his sister was sick until the family got a call saying she had been moved from the jail to the hospital. “As soon as my mother came in, she died.” Her family says Ashleigh had pneumonia and they believe her death could have been prevented if she had simply gotten antibiotics sooner. Their suspicions are based, in part, on letters they received from inmates at Dawson. “I thought all she needed was medication, and all my daughter needed was antibiotics,” said Reni Palmer, Parks’ mother. Parks’ family blames the staff at Dawson State Jail for not recognizing Ashleigh’s illness sooner. They say they filed a lawsuit but later dropped it. “The medical personnel in ICU told me there was basically nothing they could do for her. And these are the people at the hospital (who) told us that the prison killed my sister,” said Grady. His anger and grief was renewed in April when he saw a CBS 11 investigation which raised troubling questions about a lack of medical care at Dawson State Jail. In our previous report, CBS 11 spoke with the family of Pam Weatherby, an inmate who died while serving a one year sentence for drug possession. Weatherby’s parents believe their daughter didn’t receive adequate treatment for her diabetes while in jail. Anne Roderick, another inmate, said Weatherby was very ill, but no one moved her from her cell from for medical treatment. Roderick claims the inmates tried desperately to keep Weatherby alive. “I knew she was going to die,” said Roderick. “I knew if we didn’t get her out of there, she was going to die.” Pam Weatherby died on May 12, 2010. Ashley Parks died two years earlier. After watching our earlier report, Parks’ brother wonders if by speaking about more, he could have helped prevent Weatherby’s death. “I wondered if that night if I had done more myself (would) that girl still be alive,” said Keith Grady. Nearly 20 former inmates have also contacted CBS 11 saying they were afraid to talk when they were at Dawson but now want to speak out about a lack of medical care. Dawson State Jail is run by Corrections Corporation of America, a private prison management company based in Tennessee that has a contract with the State of Texas. CBS 11 obtained internal CCA documents that show the chief of security reported that the supervisors did not follow proper procedures by failing to call for help for Pam Weatherby. He recommended terminating a shift supervisor. But when CCA had to file an incident report with the State of Texas, the warden wrote “staff acted in accordance with TDCJ procedure” and concluded that “no training needs have been identified.”

January 11, 2012 Dallas Morning News
Update:
Lancaster police arrested the suspect in a shooting that critically injured a Dawson State Jail employee Tuesday. Walter Moore, 29, faces a charge of aggravated assault/family violence in the attack on Shiva Daniels, the mother of two of his children, Dallas police said. Moore was booked into the Dallas County Jail shortly after midnight and is being held on $250,000 bail. Daniels remains at Parkland Memorial Hospital in serious condition. Update/rewrite with victim's name 10 pm: A shooting outside the Dawson State Jail Tuesday left an employee in critical condition and her attacker on the loose. Shiva Daniels, 26, was leaving work at the jail about 5 p.m. when the estranged father of her children walked up to her vehicle and shot her twice with a shotgun, according to a police report. Hit in the neck and shoulder, the maintenance technician called 911, spoke the alleged shooter's name twice and told operators she was going to die. The shooter fled the public parking lot, which serves the Dallas County courthouse across the street, in the 100 block of West Commerce Street.

May 18, 2011 Dallas Observer
Pamela Weatherby, a 45-year-old Big Spring woman -- and, according to a federal suit filed Monday in Dallas, an "unstable insulin dependent diabetic" -- was serving a one-year sentence for drug possession at Dawson State Jail when she died last July. Now her parents and two sons say Weatherby would still be alive if not for the treatment she received from guards and medical staff at Dawson, which is on the Trinity River on W. Commerce Street. They're suing Corrections Corporation of America, the state jail's operator and the country's largest private prison outfit, over her death. Says the suit, which follows after the jump, Weatherby wasn't given off the regular insulin shots she needed -- she got oral diabetes treatment instead -- nor was she fed the special low-starch diet Texas requires for diabetic inmates. The suit recounts Weatherby's two months of diabetic comas after she was taken off insulin shots, blaming them on "CCA's deliberate indifference to her serious medical needs." CCA spokesman Mike Machak tells Unfair Park they hadn't been served yet and only just got a look at the suit. "However, at this point, it is important to understand that we take the health of every inmate in our care very seriously," he says. Lawyers for Weatherby's family didn't respond to messages, but Elisabeth Holland, a local nurse practitioner who runs Project Matthew, a faith-based medical program for incarcerated women, says she isn't surprised. "My opinion is that the health care in Dawson is worse than in a developing country," she says. "Any of those diseases -- HIV would be another one -- that require regular medication with regular screening gets lost." CCA is the only defendant named in the suit. But it also mentions one Quindlynn Gray, who, the suit alleges, signed off on Weatherby's health care at Dawson; Gray is listed as an employee of the University of Texas Medical Branch in Galveston, which provides health care for Texas's corrections system. (That may not be the case very much longer, especially if private health care providers convince lawmakers to open the market.) The suit against CCA offers a blow-by-blow account of Weatherby's diabetic incidents at Dawson, where, the family alleges, her treatment didn't follow the course prescribed by the diagnostic intake facility Weatherby came through first. Within days of her arrival at Dawson, the suit says, Weatherby was taken off her scheduled insulin shots and given oral Glyburide instead -- ushering in "three consecutive days of diabetic comas," the suit says. Mistaking the comas for a suicide attempt, the suit says, jail officials had her transferred to a mental health unit in Gatesville, where she was put back on insulin shots and stabilized -- only to return to Dawson after a few days, where she was taken back off insulin and her comas started up again. At 1 a.m. on June 22, the suit says, guards found Weatherby unresponsive in her cell again; she was transferred to Parkland, stabilized, and returned to Dawson the next morning. Weatherby died July 14 after "yet another diabetic crisis", the suit says; an autopsy blamed effects from her diabetes. "CCA refused to treat Weatherby, ignored her complaints, and intentionally treated her incorrectly with wonton disregard for any serious medical needs," Weatherby's family claims, blaming the company for "a pattern and practice of failing to implement processes and procedures" the state requires.

Diboll Correctional Center
DibollTexas
Jul 21, 2014 kulturekritic.com

According to the Lufkin Daily News, a roof collapsed last Saturday in the Diboll Correctional Center in Lufkin, Texas, which is a privately run prison facility owned by the Centerville, Utah-based Management & Training Corporation (MTC). The report continues that 20 inmates received minor injuries from falling wallboard, but 10 of those injured were transported to local hospitals for treatment, and one is described as being in critical condition after being airlifted to a Houston, Texas area hospital almost 100 miles away. The facility, which has a maximum capacity of 518 inmates and houses minimum security prisoners, is less than 20 years old, so some are asking why the ceiling would collapse, even if there has been a lot of rain in the area recently. According to MTC’s official website, they operate 22 prisons in eight states, the majority being in Texas and Mississippi, as well as 21 Job Corps programs for the U.S. Department of Labor. Prison warden David Driscoll, said that the collapse was probably caused by the amount of rain that they have received over the last couple of days. Issa Arnita, spokesperson for MTC added that 86 inmates were inside the area when the ceiling collapsed, but the cause of the accident is yet to be determined. Lufkin Fire Department Battalion Chief Jesse Moody said that he couldn’t understand why the roof collapsed, even though there had been a lot of rain because the facility is a relatively new building. He added that prisoners were tagged according to the severity of their injuries and taken for treatment using rapid transport protocol. Several of the injured inmates were transported to Memorial Medical Center and Woodland Heights Medical Center, both in Lufkin, said Sgt. Brandan Lovell of the Diboll Police Department. According to MTC’s Major Ken Montgomery, most of the remaining 85 inmates are being transferred to another prison facility in Huntsville, Texas. He added that because the collapsed ceiling was located in the middle of the day room, it wouldn’t be safe to leave the inmates there at this time. The Weather Underground reported that Diboll had received over six inches of rain five days prior to the collapse. During the rescue operation, law enforcement officials searched ambulances and fire trucks as they left the facility, in the unlikely event that an inmate was trying to make a break for freedom.


Jul 19, 2014 lufkindailynews.com

Twenty inmates were injured with 10 being transported to Lufkin hospitals when a suspended ceiling collapsed in the dayroom of the Diboll Correctional Center, a private prison in Diboll, Saturday morning, according to Warden David Driskell. Driskell confirmed there were 87 inmates in the dayroom of the facility at the time the ceiling collapsed. None of the injures appeared to be life-threatening, according to an Associated Press report. Sgt. Brandan Lovell of the Diboll Police Department said officers had set up a perimeter around the correctional facility, which holds low- to medium-security inmates. Off-duty correctional officers were on the scene, along with officials from the Texas Department of Public Safety, the Angelina County Sheriff’s Office, the Lufkin Police Department and the Fuller Springs Volunteer Fire Department. The prison is at 1604 S. First St. in Diboll. It is next door to another prison — the Duncan Unit, which is part of the Texas Department of Criminal Justice system.

DeWitt County Jail
Cuero, Texas
Keefe (formerly run by Aramark)

May 9, 2006 The Victoria Advocate
Bookkeeping problems in the DeWitt County Jail commissary should be a thing of the past now that the supplier and office policy have changed, Sheriff Jode Zavesky told county commissioners Monday. Zavesky said he had signed a contract earlier this month with Keefe Supply Company to supply and administer the jail's commissary. "Our last supplier (Aramark) kind of left us dangling," the sheriff said. "They said we were too small an operation and they weren't coming back." Commissioner Curtis Afflerbach asked if the problems with the system that the county auditor reported at the last court's meeting would be resolved with the new company. "We hope to reconcile that the best we can prior to this new contract," Zavesky said. "We've also implemented some changes with our staff that we hope will keep us from getting into the same problems."

Dickens County Correctional Facility
Spur, Texas
GEO Group (formerly run by Bobby Ross Group)

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

September 14, 2009 The Olympian
The Idaho Department of Correction and the parents of an inmate who killed himself in a private prison have reached a settlement ending a federal lawsuit over the son's death. The agreement, approved Sunday by U.S. District Judge B. Lynn Winmill, also marks the end of lawsuits the parties had filed against each other in state court after previous settlement talks fell apart earlier this year. The case arose after the 2007 death of Scot Noble Payne, who had been sent to a private Texas prison with hundreds of other inmates to alleviate overcrowding in Idaho. Payne slashed his own throat, and Idaho officials who investigated the Dickens County Correctional Facility said the deplorable conditions at the prison and the physical environment of Noble's solitary cell could have contributed to his suicide. Payne's mother, Shirley Noble, and his father, Alberto Payne, sued the Idaho Department of Correction, saying the department was responsible for the wrongful death of their son. The parties went into mediation to see if they could reach a settlement, and in February both sides agreed the parents should be awarded $100,000 and that the Idaho Department of Correction would not admit fault for Scot Noble Payne's death. But when the official settlement document was sent to the parents the following month, they refused to sign. At the time, Noble's attorney said the Idaho Department of Correction added terms to the document that hadn't been arbitrated in mediation. The Idaho Department of Correction then sued the parents in state court, asking a judge to force them to sign the document, and the parents countersued, contending the state was breaching the settlement contract. The lawsuits filed in state court have now been dismissed, along with the federal lawsuit. The terms of the federal settlement were not released.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

July 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.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

October 29, 1998
More than 17 months after a Montana inmate died from wounds suffered during a riot at the Dickens County Correctional Facility in Spur, his medical bills totaling nearly $60,000 are still unpaid, a lawsuit states.  Montana inmate Neil Hage, 32, died May 16, 1997, at University Medical Center in Lubbock a week after he was injured in a prison riot between inmates from Montana and Hawaii.  Now a lawsuit brought by University Medical Center alleges that former DCCF operator Bobby Ross Group has failed to pay the $59,480 bill despite promises to do so.  But the May 9, 1997, riot at the Spur facility came at a time when Montana officials were about to pull their 220-plus inmates out of the prison.  An audit performed by the Montana Department of Corrections in 1996 and 1997 made numerous claims of inadequacies at the facilities, including a lack of CPR and medical readiness in general.  BRG agreed to terminate its contract with Dickens County in April after county officials opted to sell the prison to Florida-based Correction Service Corp., which now runs the facility.  (Houston Chronicle) 

Sept. 7, 1997
Montana inmates at a Texas prison go hungry and have to wait days for medical care, while the company running the prison continues to violate its $3.6 million-a-year contract with the state, an investigation by Montana corrections officials found.  A report released Friday said the Dickens County Correctional Center, operated by the Bobby Ross Group, is not fully complying with 15 of 22 provisions of the state contract.  Violations include food service medical care security, inmate transfers and disciplinary actions, according to the report.  Dickens County has had problems since Montana inmates were sent there about a year ago.  One inmate was killed in a May brawl, a near-riot had to be halted by gunfire from guards last fall, a warden was fired and two Montana escapees remain on the loose.  Friday's report found that the company is complying with the contract in its education, treatment and drug-testing programs, providing jobs for inmates, keeping track of inmate funds, supplying medication to inmates and maintaining a set of medical policies.  But the study was especially critical of food service at the Spur prison.  (Houston Chronicle)

May 12, 1997
One inmate was released Sunday and two others remained hospitalized, one in critical condition, after a fight at a private prison in this Northwest Texas town.  Officials at the Dickens County Correctional Center would not say whether the prison remained locked down Sunday, as has been the case since Friday night's uprising involving inmates from Montana, Colorado and Hawaii.  As many as 100 inmates were in the prison's recreation yard when the fight began about 8:30 pm Friday.  The fighting prisoners surrendered when guards approached them.  (Houston Chronicle)

May 11, 1997
Three inmates were hospitalized, one with critical injuries, and their privately run prison remained locked down Saturday after a fight involving prisoners from Montana, Colorado and Hawaii.  A total of seven inmates were hurt Friday night at the Dickens County Correctional Center.  No weapons were recovered, and the victims apparently did not suffer gunshot or knife wounds, Dickens County Sheriff Ken Brendle said.  Officials said 141 inmates were transferred in November 1996 from Colorado prisons to the correctional center to relieve crowding.  To relieve crowding at the Montana State Prison in Deer Lodge, Montana sent 251 inmates to the prison last summer and has about that many there now.  An August 1996 uprising began when about 120 inmates from Montana and Hawaii refused to begin work assignments or return to their barracks in a protest over medical care, food and strip searches.  (Houston Chronicle)

Dickens County Jail
Dickens County, Texas
Community Education Centers

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.

December 11, 2010 Texas Prison Bidness
On Friday, Community Education Centers (CEC) decided to let their contract with the Dickens County Jail expire. All the inmates from that facility were transferred to the Lubbock County Detention Center. The US Marshals will pay the city of Lubbock a $40 per diem rate, and $10 per hour for guards, but the jail's Chief Deputy said they would negotiate for a higher rate in order to recover the cost of Lubbock's sending to Dickens in the first place. Now that Lubbock has a new and larger jail, they want their inmates back: As of Friday the Lubbock County Detention Center hold [sic] 105 inmates with more on the way. Chief Deputy Downes said all the federal inmates should be transferred by the end of next week. "The Lubbock County taxpayers are seeing some return on what they spent on this facility," said Chief Deputy Downes. But for Dickens County, a community of 2,700, having the federal inmates transferred has led to all 489 beds empty and more than120 jobs lost. This comes after the privately owned company that operated the Dickens County Jail did not renew their three year contract and is in the process of transitioning the operation of the jail back to Dickens[.] "We've been working diligently for the last 8 months to ensure this day would never come. Unfortunately it has," said Lesa Arnold, Dickens County Judge. The Dickens County Judge said possible loss of the jail is not an effect of less inmates. It's also due to the economy and location. "I think a lot of it had to do with geography. It was just closer for the U.S. Marshals to the court system in Lubbock," said Judge Arnold.

Eagle Lake Juvenile Facility
Columbus, Texas
Youth Services International (formerly Correctional Services Corporation
sub)
October 24, 2008 Houston Chronicle
The state's troubled youth prison system has canceled a contract with a Florida company following criticism taxpayers were paying $22,500 a day to lease empty prison beds, officials said. The Texas Youth Commission terminated the contract Thursday with Youth Services International. No one at the company could be reached for comment Thursday, the Austin American-Statesman reported in its Friday online edition. Previously, a company official had indicated the payments were reasonable. "This is what I asked for— cancel that contract. We need to get our money back. It's a good day for taxpayers and the Youth Commission that they corrected this big mistake," said Sen. John Whitmire, chairman of the Senate Criminal Justice Committee. Whitmire was among the lawmakers demanding the contract be canceled when they learned the embattled agency was leasing Eagle Lake prison, near Houston. It sat empty for three months despite the state paying the company nearly $1.3 million in startup costs, which covered part of July and all of August. Checks for September and October were withheld by TYC, which wants to negotiate a refund for much of what it already spent, the San Antonio Express-News reported Thursday in its online edition. On Oct. 17, officials moved 18 teen offenders into the Eagle Lake prison but sent them Thursday to others around the state. Cherie Townsend, the commission's new executive commissioner, said in a statement the company will be asked for a detailed accounting of all state money spent so far on the contract. Commission officials were criticized for inking the deal when its existing lockups have dozens of empty beds. The number of teenage lawbreakers in commission lockups has declined from more than 5,000 to about 2,700 in the wake of a reorganization and management shakeup that followed a sex-abuse and cover-up scandal in 2007. In a statement Thursday, Townsend said the agency "is evaluating its youth population, future trends and future needs." The contract is the latest trouble for TYC. Gov. Rick Perry recently moved the agency out of the state conservatorship put in place in 2007 following allegations of inmate sexual abuse and a cover-up by agency officials.

October 19, 2008 AP
Key state lawmakers want a contract with a private prison contractor canceled after they learned the Texas Youth Commission spent $1.26 million to lease empty beds. The agency moved 18 teenage offenders Friday into the new lockup near Houston. It had been empty for three months. The contract showed the state would pay $22,500 a day for three months at the empty facility to cover start-up costs. However, records show only $1.26 million has been spent. The Eagle Lake prison would need to house 119 offenders to cover the costs. The money was paid to Youth Services International for startup costs, something other state agencies prohibit. The Austin American-Statesman revealed details of the contract this past week. John Whitmire, Senate Criminal Justice Committee chairman, wrote a letter Friday to the agency demanding the contract with the Florida-based company be canceled.

November 29, 2005 Victoria Advocate
The Colorado County Commissioners Court has formed a committee to determine which of the county's taxing entities will be able to use the new voting machines for its elections. "We formed the committee to come up with an equitable system for all of the voting entities in the county to use the equipment," County Judge Al Jamison said after Monday's court meeting. "We've purchased 16 of the machines and have three cities and three school districts." "Now that the county is running the facility, the school district wanted the contract to be with us rather than Correctional Services Corporation," Jamison said. "The district operates an off-campus program at the juvenile facility with a principal and five teachers. That way the kids at the facility are not in an educational vacuum. For example, if they are in eighth grade, they follow an eighth grade course of learning at the facility."

East Hidalgo Detention Center
La Villa, Texas
Louisiana Correctional Service

May 22, 2012 Courthouse News
A former federal corrections officer was arrested on charges of taking a cash bribe to smuggle a cellphone to a prison inmate, the U.S. Attorney's Office said. Jorge Sandoval, 21, of Pharr is charged with taking a bribe while working under authority of the U.S. Marshals Service as a corrections officer, the U.S. Attorney's Office said in a statement. Sandoval is accused of taking the bribe while he worked at the East Hidalgo Detention Center in La Villa, Texas, a 900-bed prison that houses federal and local offenders. The prison is run by LCS Corrections Services, which describes itself as "the largest privately held private corrections company in the United States." If convicted, Sandoval faces up to 15 years in federal prison and a $250,000 fine.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

East Texas Intermediate Sanction Facility
Longview, Texas
Management &Training Corporation

September 30, 2005 Tyler Morning Telegraph
In other business Thursday, county commissioners allowed the sheriff to move forward with plans to convert the Marvin A. Smith Regional Juvenile Center to the Marvin A. Smith Criminal Justice Center. With the county's jail population hovering around capacity, the county plans to take the already-closed juvenile facility and turn it into a low-risk adult detention facility in April. He also said after the meeting that Management and Training Corp., which leases a total of 300 beds in the county's jail, has been put on verbal notice that the county currently is not in a position to renew its contract, which expires in February 2007. The sheriff said officials are working with the company on finding a new place to house those inmates when that time comes.

Ector County Correctional Center
Odessa, Texas
CEC (bought CiviGenics)
January 30, 2013 CBS 7 News

Odessa/Midland – At Least dozen people who worked at the Ector County Correctional facility, a private jail in Odessa, face federal charges of bribery. Federal officials say they were bringing contraband into the facility. The suspects indicted by the federal grand jury are making initial appearances today in federal court. Bond is expected to be set as well. The indicted employees and former employees worked in Community Education Centers for the correctional facility. Sources say one suspect was arrested in Austin. One of them is an employee at the Ector County Detention Center according to sources. However, the female employee is alleged to have committed the bribery charge while working at the private Ector County Correctional Facility. The private jail is located on the top floor of the Ector County Courthouse.

June 17, 2010 Odessa American
A Midland man who claims he was beaten into submission while jailed in the Odessa Detention Center has not given up a years-long effort to be compensated for what he said was the use of excessive force after he ran out of his cell. Larry Wesley Brown, a federal prisoner serving more than four years on a conviction of possession of a firearm by a convicted felon, sought $8 million in damages from Civigenics — a private company also known as Community Education Centers — that operates the detention center — for injuries he said occurred while he was awaiting trial in July 2007. The lawsuit was dismissed with prejudice in March, but this month, Brown appealed the district court’s decision to the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals. Brown, 55, writes in court filings that he is a former Army medic with a “well-documented history of psychological problems.” Among other disorders, Brown said he suffers from paranoid schizophrenia. Brown’s claim against the detention center stems from a scuffle with several prison guards after — in what he called a “delusional episode” — he repeatedly shouted for help from his cell and then bolted into the hallway once the door was opened. “At the time I believed that I was a member of the British royal family and was mistakenly being held in the bowels of a military ship,” Brown said in a sworn affidavit. “From within the cell, I continued to scream for help, and I yelled for the guard to contact the Queen.” Brown said he suffered a number of injuries when he was detained, including several broken teeth. “Community Education Centers is satisfied with the judge’s ruling and confident it will survive on appeal,” said Christopher Greeder, a spokesman for the detention center. In a separate case, Civigenics was sued by another former inmate who blames the detention center for the loss of his eyesight. Colby E. Miller of Odessa claims in a federal lawsuit that Civigenics guards negligently allowed a fellow inmate to obtain a broom. Miller’s attorney, Robert Swafford of Austin, said in the lawsuit that the inmate struck Miller in the eye with the broomstick, causing him to permanently lose his sight. Greeder declined to comment on the Miller case, citing the pending litigation. No trial date has been set in the Miller case.

April 6, 2010 Odessa American
An Odessa woman fearing a life sentence in federal prison hanged herself in an isolation cell Monday morning, her family said. Vickie Faye Purcell, 51, was found dead in the Ector County Correctional Center, authorities said. The Texas Rangers said Purcell’s death appeared to be a suicide, but they were still awaiting the results of an autopsy Tuesday. “We’re just devastated,” Purcell’s sister, Teresa Johnson, said by phone Tuesday. “She was a good, sweet, wonderful person. We’re just going to miss her terribly.” Family members said Purcell had been placed in isolation the night before after getting into a fight with a cellmate. The suicide is at least the second by an inmate in the past two years at the Ector County Correctional Center, which is operated by Civigenics, a private company also known as Community Education Centers. Christopher Greeder, a company spokesman, confirmed the suicide on Tuesday but declined to comment further, citing an ongoing investigation. Greeder also declined to discuss the jail’s general policies on suicide prevention.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Eden Detention Center
Eden, Texas
CCA

April 12, 2010 Standard-Times
The Eden Detention Center was in lockdown status late Monday after a riot was contained Sunday night, a release from the detention center stated. Inmates in Dormitory B at the detention center refused to go to their bunks Sunday night, according to the release. “Facility staff used approved chemical agents to enforce lawful orders and successfully resolved the situation, with only minor injuries reported,” said Lee McDaniel, the public information officer for the detention center. The nature of the chemical agents was not specified, and the company did not say what caused the unrest. The facility is locked down — inmates are confined to their cells — while staff investigate what caused the riot, the release states. McDaniel said the public wasn’t in any danger and staff contained the incident to one housing area. Ricky Thomas, the assistant police chief of Eden, said the city police were called out to control the area outside the center. “We were out in the front, but they handled everything themselves,” Thomas said. “We don’t go inside the prison when anything like that happens.” Riots at the detention center happen “very seldom,” he said. The Corrections Corporation of America, which operates the detention center facility, has the Eden Detention Center listed as a low-security facility for men. It has 1,538 beds. The number of inmates at the detention center, according to census estimates from 2008, exceeds by about 200 the general population in Eden.

October 15, 2007 San Angelo Standard-Times
In January, the U.S. Bureau of Prisons notified Mayor Charlie Rodgers that the $740,000-a-year payment for the Eden Detention Center would end May 1. For some residents, the loss of that contract meant only one thing: bankruptcy for the Concho County city of 1,200 residents and 1,400 inmates some 45 miles east-southeast of San Angelo. The prison is owned by Corrections Corp. of America. Federal payments to Eden helped cover such expenses as fire department, ambulance service, streets, water, sewer and the local library, among other things. The prison continues to operate virtually unchanged after the CCA successfully submitted the winning bid. Roughly 250 people work at the center. Rodgers, a retired GTE employee serving his third term as mayor, acknowledged the city has been forced to curtail some activities but said nobody is throwing in the towel. Last year's $2.1 million city budget has been slashed to $1.5 million, a more than 25 percent cut. Subsidies to the volunteer fire department, ambulance service and the library have stopped. "There's a lot of services affected," Rodgers said. "The fire department had geared up because of the detention center and invested over $150,000 for a pumper to meet the needs of the detention center." The City Council raised water and sewer rates to deal with the three-month shortfall from May until the July 31 end of Eden's fiscal year. Minus $20,000 a year, librarian Deanna Beaver had to dismiss her assistant and cut back three-day-a-week hours to 11 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. She also took a pay cut. A nonprofit foundation owns and operates the library, but it counted on the prison-related revenue for training rooms and interlibrary loans. "We're going to continue on," said city attorney Dwain Psencik, dispelling talk of Eden's imminent obituary. "The city is going to provide safety and public health services necessary for the continued well-being of all citizens." Eden's situation has been complicated by rumors and misconceptions in the community, he added, because of the complicated relationship with the prison. In 1985, Eden signed an intergovernmental agreement with the prison bureau for inmates at the detention center. That contract ended May 1. Under the agreement, the city was paid about $1.50 per inmate per day based on actual costs for the past two years and projected costs for three years ahead. "The BOP would cut one check each month that was calculated on the number of inmates times the agreed rate paid to the city," said Psencik, who also is president of Eden's Chamber of Commerce. "The city would break that out to the library and fire department. It was a reliable, monthly cash flow." Then came January's bombshell regarding the bureau's payments. Similar letters went to Big Spring, Pecos and Post. "I think CCA may have gotten a bad rap," Psencik said, adding that he thinks the Nashville, Tenn.-based firm has been a good corporate citizen. In fact, CCA pledged Oct. 5 to spend $3.3 million toward the construction of Eden's wastewater treatment plant. "It's not a simple matter to just reduce our budget and expenditures," he continued. "We couldn't just snap our fingers and cut the spigot off May 1." While the number of city employees has been reduced and the city structure has been reorganized, Psencik said, safety has not been compromised. After 20 years, the city secretary resigned. After 10 years, the city eliminated the bureau-mandated correctional contracts administrator. "We are fighting the battle of atrophy of rural cities," the city attorney said. "We've held our own because of the federal prison. The main benefit of the prison is the jobs." Fewer than 100 of the 250 employees live in Eden, he estimated. A substantial number commute from San Angelo. "We're trying to hold our head above water against the I-35-corridor syndrome," he continued, referring to the federal highway that connects Laredo to San Antonio, Austin, Fort Worth and Dallas. "It's a constant battle." Eden has hired an economic development coordinator, Genora Young, to marshal assets and form regional alliances. "This is a burp in the bubble," said Psencik. "We're trying to take this lemon and make lemonade of it. We're still fighting, still being innovative."

September 29, 2005 Casa Grande Valley News
Several employees at Central Arizona Detention Center used their mid- day break last Thursday to have a piece of cake and congratulate a colleague on his birthday. Harry J. Larson celebrated his 80th birthday while on the job as a correctional officer. CADC Warden Bruno Stolc presented a plaque to Larson, who has been with the private prison in Florence since June 2001. The warden recalled in front of about 25 people assembled, how Larson recently helped pull an aggressive inmate off another officer. "So Mr. Larson is not just filling a spot. Mr. Larson is a correctional officer, and we're dang proud to have him," Stolc said. Warden Stolc said while Larson is the oldest CADC employee, he is not the oldest employee in CCA. Frank Deloria, an officer at the company's Eden, Texas, prison is 83. The company also has a part- time registered nurse who is 87, Stolc said.

May 21, 2003
The parents of a former Eden Detention Center inmate have filed a lawsuit against the privately operated prison, claiming their son died after mental abuse that included withholding a special diet for his medical condition.  The wrongful death suit, filed by Conrado Mestas and Rafaela Ochoa Mestas of El Paso, seeks more than $50,000 in damages and was filed just a few days before a two-year statute of limitations expired, the San Angelo Standard-Times reported in Tuesday editions.  Conrado Mestas Ochoa was found dead in his cell on May 20, 2001, according to the suit.  The family said the inmate suffered from cirrhosis of the liver, metabolic derangement and a skin disorder. He had been in the detention center since April.  Lee McDaniel, the center's public information officer, declined to comment on the case to the newspaper, referring questions to Corrections Corporation of America. A CCA spokesman in Nashville, Tenn., did not immediately return a phone call from The Associated Press on Monday night.  Eden Detention Center is about 35 miles southeast of San Angelo.  (AP)

May 5, 2003
Officials at a privately operated West Texas detention center are investigating the cause of a fray that injured at least 15 inmates.  Officials with Corrections Corporation of America said the altercation happened Thursday night at the Eden Detention Center, about 35 miles southeast of San Angelo.  The unit remained locked down on Friday.  (AP)

August 23, 1996
A daylong riot in which shotgun-toting guards clashed with 400 boisterous prisoners at a privately run federal detention center in West Texas has renewed questions about how well such prisons are operated and monitored.  A Bureau of Prisons spokesperson said the bureau will review the way the disturbance was handled by CCA's security force.  At least 17 people were hurt in the riot, which began shortly before noon Wednesday and ended about 2 am Thursday.  Guards fired buckshot into the ground and released pepper gas to quell the disturbance, which reportedly began as a protest against poor food, inadequate recreation and other prison conditions.  One guard suffered a broken jaw after he was hit by a rock thrown by an inmate.  The detention center is a "low-security" facility reserved for non-U.S. citizens who have less than three years to serve.  Most, Tracey said, will be deported upon completion of their terms.  The disturbance began about 11 am Wednesday when hundreds of inmates conducted a sit-in rather than respond to morning roll call.  After negotiations between prison officials and the inmates failed, rowdiness among prisoners increased.  Some threw rocks and other items at security guards.  Guards discharged pepper gas and fired shotguns into the ground as inmates stormed a fence in an apparent effort to escape.  Two inmates underwent surgery to remove buckshot that reportedly ricocheted.  As the day wore on - temperatures topped 90 degrees - several guards required treatment for heat injuries and inmates pleaded for water.  As prison guards sought to bring the riot under control, about two dozen state troopers and Texas Rangers stood by.  A Department of Public Safety helicopter patrolled the area searching for possible escapees.  (Houston Chronicle)

El Paso County Jail
El Paso, Texas
Prison Health Services

May 24, 2006 KTSM
Sheriff deputies tell us 47-year old Mario Lopez was arrested today, charged with violating the civil rights of a inmate and having improper sexual activity with a person in custody. The Sheriff's Office say the investigation started after an inmate complained about Lopez. He is now in the County Jail under a $50,000 bond. The Sheriff's Office says Lopez is an employee of Prison Health Services, which is under a contract with El Paso County to provide medical services to prisoners at the jail.

Falls County Jail
Marlin, Texas
Correctional Education Centers

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.

January 18, 2011 Marlin Democrat
Falls County Commissioners met in regular session last Monday with a multitude of agenda items to ponder including the non-renewal by CEC to run the Falls County Detention Center. Following the opening of the Falls County Detention Center in 2000, CiviGenics was awarded a contract to provide personnel to run the jail and has done so until Community Education Centers (CEC) acquired CiviGenics in 2007. CEC has chosen not to renew the contract with Falls County and the detention center will come under the direction of Falls County, sometime in April. CEC, which has personnel in many jail facilities in many towns, has moved inmates to other facilities at a lower cost and couldn’t afford to pay the inmate cost at the Falls County facility. “With new facilities being built in the CEC service area, detainees are being housed at a lesser cost than here, so our prisoner count has been declining for several months. CEC.” Said County Judge Steven Sharp. Sharp said that at the last meeting of the Commissioner’s Court, “We are working on creating a budget so we can provide all services at the jail as well as amending the Sheriff’s budget to cover such expenses. “We won’t loose all the outside inmates and will still be able to provide services for the local ones. One good thing to come out of this is that we keep all the profits and not have to pay private contractors.” Jail capacity is 94 – 95 inmates.” Originally, the plan projected that it would take 20 years to pay for the construction of the $3.5 million structure with funds from housing prisoners to defray that cost, but the county was paying thousands of dollars each month to CEC, therefore making no profit. The county has eight more years to repay the cost of building.

September 29, 2009 KWTX
A female guard employed by a private firm that provides security at the Falls County Jail was fired this week after officials discovered she had married a male inmate by proxy. Community Education Centers Warden, Mike Wilson said Chastity Withers, who worked for CEC as an overnight guard at the Falls County Jail, was married by proxy on Aug. 23 in McLennan County to Timothy Hargrove, 31, an inmate who was jailed at the time and who was sentenced this month to 30 years in prison after his conviction on charges of manufacturing of a controlled substance. Wilson said confidential sources led to an investigation and to the discovery of the relationship. Withers was later arrested and charged with prohibited items and substances in a correctional facility. The charge involves a cell phone, but Wilson declined to release more details.

Fannin County Jail
BonHam, Texas
Community Education Centers

February 25, 2012 KTEN
A Fannin County inmate who has been at large for days is now in custody. Saturday afternoon, Bonham police arrested 45-year-old Jimmy Lee Brock. Saturday morning around 9:48, deputies got a call about a burglary at Fannin County Precinct 3 Barn. Numerous items were missing, including chainsaws, weed eaters, impact wrenches and a truck. Around 4:33 PM, Bonham Police got a tip that Brock was at a Bonham business. That's where the escapee was taken into custody. Brock was found in possession of the stolen items at the time of his arrest. He is also accused of stealing a 2008 Impala, which he used to escape earlier this week. Deputies later recovered car on FM 38 in Lamar County. It was found driven into a group of cedar trees. Brock escaped Tuesday around 8:45 AM while working at Fannin County Precinct 3 Barn near Honey Grove.

February 21, 2012 KTEN
Fannin County authorities are reporting an inmate has escaped from the Fannin County Jail. At around 8:45A this morning, the inmate, Jimmy Lee Brock, walked away from a work detail near the town of Honey Grove. It is believed Brock left the scene in a gold 2008 Chevy Impala, Texas handicap plate: LP-9DPKZ. He is 45, 5'7" tall, 160-180lbs, and was last seen in a orange jump suit. Brock was in jail on cruelty to animals and evading detention charges. According to C.E.C jail staff, at the time of his disappearance Brock was part of the Inmate Worker program and he had been for approximately 2 months with no problems. C.E.C. is a private jail that contracts with Fannin County to hold inmates.

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

Sept. 2, 1997
Two inmates serving time for car theft and forgery were back in custody Sunday after escaping from a privately run prison in Newton County near the Louisiana border.  The private prison, operated by the Bobby Ross Group Inc., is the same unit where another inmate escaped last year, kidnapped a woman and took her at knifepoint to the Mexican border.  The prison increased security measures after the Feb. 14, 1996, escape of Larry Earl Pagan of Hawaii, who scaled an 8-foot perimeter fence topped with razor wire.

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

March 12, 2005 Express-News
An alleged member of the Mexican Mafia who was part of a jailbreak last summer at the Frio County Jail pleaded guilty Friday to escape. Reymundo Alaniz Flores - one of five inmates who escaped - entered the plea before U.S. Magistrate Judge John Primomo in San Antonio. The escape occurred Aug. 6 at the privately run jail in Pearsall that used to house federal inmates. 
Authorities allege Robert Lee Jack and Randy Wayne Folsom helped the escape by cutting a hole in a perimeter fence, supplying wire cutters to the inmates and driving them away.

January 21, 2005 Express-News
A San Antonio man admitted Thursday that he helped five federal inmates escape from Frio County Jail last summer. At a hearing before U.S. Magistrate Judge Pamela Mathy, Robert Lee Jack, 32, pleaded guilty to instigating and assisting the Aug. 6, 2004, escape. Jack admitted he went to the privately run jail in Pearsall the day of the escape and tossed a pair of bolt cutters over a perimeter fence to an inmate. Jack also admitted cutting a hole in an outside fence. He faces up to five years in prison when he's sentenced May 12. Two of the inmates remain at large.

October 13, 2004 Houston Chronicle
Two federal inmates who escaped from a South Texas detention facility in August were captured Wednesday near Laredo, officials said. The men were among five inmates who fled a Frio County lockup Aug. 6, possibly with the help of the Mexican Mafia. One of the escapees was caught shortly after the escape. The two who remain on the loose are presumed to be in South Texas, officials said. The "Frio Five" were able to flee the jail through holes cut in security fences, possibly with outside assistance. An investigation continues into whether they had inside help.

August 13, 2004 Express-News
Federal authorities are hoping $50,000 will persuade someone to give up the whereabouts of five inmates who escaped last week from the privately operated Frio County Jail. LaFayette Collins, U.S. marshal for the Western District of Texas, said at a news conference today that it is offering rewards of $10,000 apiece for information leading to the recapture of the former jail residents, who slipped to freedom Aug. 6 through holes cut in two perimeter fences. Collins also said the escape probe continues, including interviewing — and re-interviewing - jail guards to see what they know. No determination has been made on whether the inmates — who are said to have ties to the Texas Mexican Mafia gang — had help inside or outside the lockup, or both. "We suspect everything and everybody at this point," Collins said. Meanwhile, the Sarasota, Fla.-based company that runs the jail under contract, Correctional Services Corp., has refused to publicly explain the foul-up, ordering its local officials to turn down media interviews and not returning numerous calls seeking comment. 

August 11, 2004
The U.S. Marshals Service has withdrawn 240 inmates from a privately run jail near San Antonio after the escape last week of five federal prisoners. The escape happened just five weeks after the Frio County Detention Center in Pearsall was ruled noncompliant with state regulations because of overcrowding and understaffing. "The reason they were moved is the U.S. Marshals Service had security concerns," said John D. Butler, chief deputy U.S. marshal for the Western District of Texas. "Five prisoners escaped at one time, and that's the second jail break they've had within the past year." Four of the five inmates were born in Mexico. The fifth, Reymundo Flores Alaniz, was born in Texas but is said to be a high-ranking member of the Mexican Mafia and has been convicted of murder. They are all considered armed and dangerous, authorities said. The 240 federal prisoners were removed from the 390-bed jail Saturday. They were moved to several facilities throughout the region. The firm that runs the jail – Correctional Services Corp. of Sarasota, Fla. – responded Tuesday by laying off 35 of the jail's 58 employees, said Pearsall Mayor Roland Segovia.

August 11, 2004
The first round of layoffs began Tuesday at the privately run Frio County Jail in the wake of last week's broad daylight escape of five federal inmates.  Jose "Nacho" Hernandez, a former detention officer, said his son, Joel, and a friend were among those who lost their jobs.  He said he didn't know how many detention officers received letters Tuesday notifying them of the layoffs.  But up to 30 employees are expected to be laid off, County Judge Carlos Garcia said Tuesday.  Garcia said representatives with Correctional Services Corp. advised him the cutbacks were necessary after the U.S. Marshals Service withdrew its remaining 240 inmates from the jail over the weekend, citing security concerns.  The five inmates that escaped Friday remained on the loose Tuesday.  (Express-News)

August 10, 2004
Big changes at the Frio County Jail, as hundreds of inmates are shipped out.  They were sent to another facility just one day after five convicts escaped from the jail, and more changes could be on the way.  "What are we waiting for are. Are we waiting for one of these persons to go into one of these homes and kill somebody?," said Mayor Roland Segovia.  The mayor of Pearsall is concerned about the company that runs the Frio County Jail.  Segovia says Correction Services Corporation out of Florida is a good company but, "having six breakouts in the past eight years and only catching one of the 15 that have escaped, that's pretty scary," said Segovia.  He says on Saturday about 200 jail inmates were shipped to another jail.  "We stand at only about 40 inmates in the Frio County Jail," said Segovia.  Segovia also says he's heard dozens of Frio County CSC employees are being laid off as operations are scaled back.  "To lose 75 people in a matter of two or three days that's a lot," said Segovia.  (WOAI.com)

August 8, 2004
After the fifth breakout at Frio County Jail in the past eight years, nearby residents reacted Saturday with a mix of anger and indifference to the rash of escapes.  Five inmates cut through two fences and walked away from the jail at about 1 p.m. Friday, before a massive nine-hour manhunt came up empty and was called off due to darkness, rain and thick brush in the area.  Since the start of 1996, 14 inmates have escaped from the jail in five incidents.  On Saturday afternoon, a bus from the LaSalle County Detention Center in Cotulla was at the Pearsall jail to transfer some of the federal inmates out of the Frio County facility. Jail officials declined to provide details on the number of inmates being sent to LaSalle County.  Some nearby residents complained because they didn't learn of the escape for hours.  Like many Pearsall residents, Judy Stacy, who lives two blocks from the jail, was incredulous after another escape.  "It's absurd," she said. "How could you cut two holes through the fences and just walk out? Don't they have people watching them?"  Nell Youngblood lives a block from the jail, but did not hear about the escape for more than two hours. Then her husband locked all the doors and all but one window.  (Express-News)

August 6, 2004
Five federal prisoners escaped today from a privately run lockup near San Antonio, according to the Frio County Sheriff's Department.  Spokesman John Butler said the escape from a Correctional Services Corp. facility in Pearsall occurred around 1 p.m. He said the prisoners were in the custody of the Marshal's Service office in Laredo, which uses the lockup under contract.  Butler, based in San Antonio, said a headcount was under way this afternoon to determine who was missing and how dangerous they might be.   Investigators were also trying to determine how the prisoners got away, though Butler said witnesses reported seeing them crawling under perimeter fences.  (AP)

September 10, 2003
Law officers continued searching today for two federal inmates who escaped from a South Texas lockup.  The prisoners, both Mexican nationals, were reported missing late Monday morning from the Frio County Detention Center. Jorge Perez Delgado, 45, and 29-year-old Oscar Herrada Herrera were held on federal drug charges out of Laredo, said David Sligh, supervisory deputy U.S. marshal for the Western District of Texas.  Wanted posters for the men were released late Tuesday afternoon. Authorities suspect at least one of the inmates may be headed for Mexico.  The U.S. Marshals Service said no one was harmed during the escape and there were no signs of a forced exit. The inmates were last accounted for inside the jail at 9 a.m. Monday, but were missing when the next count was conducted two hours later, Sligh said.  He said investigators who followed up on "some good leads" Tuesday believed Herrada could be headed to Mexico because his last known address was in Nuevo Laredo.  Herrada, serving a 37-month sentence on a probation violation, was originally convicted of heroin possession.  Perez, whose last known address was in Chicago, was awaiting sentencing on possession with intent to distribute cocaine and conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute cocaine.  Frio County Sheriff Lionel Trevino referred questions about the escape from the privately run detention center to the Marshals Service, which was leading the investigation.  Florida-based Correctional Services Corp. operates the 391-bed detention center that houses city, county and federal inmates.  (AP)

August, 1999
Two inmates escaped by digging a hole behind the toilet in their prison cell continue to elude authorities. They crawled from the hole onto an unguarded walkway and then slipped out of the building through an unsecured back door. (Express-News, August 30, 1999)

September 21, 1996
Prison board Chairman Allan Polunsky ordered Friday that a private prison company be billed the $2,140 it cost the state to send 23 guards to help quell a convict "standoff" that turned out to be a false alarm.  "It concerns me that our staff was called when public safety was not in imminent jeopardy," Polunsky said of the incident that occurred Wednesday at the Frio Detention Center in Pearsall.  The facility is a county jail operated by Dove Development Corp., a Texas company based in Crystal City.  Among its prisoners are 100 state felons from Missouri and Utah who are being housed there because of crowding in their home state prisons.  (Houston Chronicle)

Galveston County Jail
Galveston, Texas
Correctional Medical Services

June 7, 2007 The Daily News
A Missouri firm lost its longtime contract to provide medical care to jail inmates when county commissioners Wednesday unanimously awarded a $5.5 million deal to the University of Texas Medical Branch. The island-based medical branch beat out incumbent St. Louis-based Correctional Medical Services, which had the multimillion dollar contract for nine years. The contract calls for the county to pay the medical branch about $207,500 a month for the first 14 months, beginning Aug. 1, and $216,360 for the next 12 months to provide medical care to inmates. The medical branch will offer inmates medical services that include on-site assessments at intake, chronic and emergency medical management in the jail and hospital-based care if needed. If the average daily population of inmates exceeds 1,000, the medical branch could earn more, based on a pay formula, officials say. Also, the Gulf Coast Center, a mental-health and retardation facility serving Galveston and Brazoria counties, will pay the medical branch $14,000 a month for on-site and on-call services. Galveston County Attorney Harvey Bazaman said Correctional Medical Services had done an adequate job, but county officials wanted to see if there were financial savings to be had by putting the contract out for bid.

January 20, 2006 Texas City Sun
Two county jailers have been suspended, while a third jail employee was fired after an investigation into an inmate’s suicide in November. Sheriff Gean Leonard declined Thursday to give the name of the woman who was fired because she was an employee of the company Correctional Medical Services, not the sheriff’s office. The company could not be reached for comment Thursday. Deputies Louis Padric Heck and Kendra Harris were suspended for five days without pay. John Louis Kenney hanged himself in his county jail cell on Nov. 20. Hours earlier, he had been booked into the jail on a misdemeanor assault charge stemming from a domestic dispute. Kenney, who hanged himself with a belt deputies had returned to him earlier that night, had tried suicide in jail once before.

Garza County Regional Juvenile Center
Garza County, Texas
Cornerstone Programs Corporation

July 29, 2007 Dallas Morning News
Executives of the Colorado-based Cornerstone Programs Corp., which manages the Garza County Regional Juvenile Center in West Texas, have a history of involvement in troubled juvenile facilities in other states. Cornerstone closed its Swan Valley Youth Academy in 2006 after a Montana State Department of Public Health and Human Services investigation found 19 violations, including neglect and failure to report child abuse and an attempted suicide. "Intake process was particularly harmful to youth, and many have been made to vomit due to excessive exercise and drinking large amounts of water," Montana officials wrote in their findings. According to Montana officials, the state and Cornerstone had developed a corrective plan to keep the facility open. "There was a number of charges of abuse filed against the director of the program and the second in charge," said Cornerstone chief executive Joseph Newman. The bad press hurt business and so it closed, he said. Mr. Newman said state officials later cleared them of all the abuse charges, but Montana officials said they had no record of that. In Texas, Cornerstone's Garza facility has been put under corrective action plans to improve staff training, documenting grievances and group therapy sessions. But the company has hired a new director and added new staff to Garza, which it began managing in 2003. In 2005, a 17-year-old inmate at the facility became paralyzed after falling on his head in an attempt to do a back flip off a table. A lawsuit by his family against the facility, settled in 2006, alleged that a guard not only failed to prevent the stunt, but challenged the youth to attempt it. The officer was fired after the incident. The Garza County facility consistently has received positive reviews by the Texas Youth Commission. "The Garza County Regional Juvenile Center is an exemplary program," a TYC monitor wrote in the facility's 2006 contract renewal evaluation – the same year Swan Valley closed. Cornerstone was founded in October 1998 by Mr. Newman and board chairman Jane O'Shaughnessy, about six months after another company they operated ran into trouble in Colorado. That other company, called Rebound, operated the High Plains Youth Center in Brush, Colo., which housed juvenile offenders from around the country. In December 1995, a University of Illinois at Chicago psychologist hired by the state's Department of Children and Family Services issued a damning report on High Plains, and the agency later began removing its youth from the juvenile prison. "Unit staffing practices appear to be a numbers game where management attempts to balance the competing pressures of safety and profit," wrote Dr. Ronald Davidson, a faculty member in the university's psychiatry department. The facility also had a "consistent and disturbing pattern of violence, sexual abuse, clinical malpractice and administrative incompetence at every level of the program." A Human Rights Watch report later found that High Plains "fell short of reasonable, even minimal, performance." Colorado officials closed High Plains in 1998 after a 13-year-old inmate from Utah committed suicide and a state investigation found widespread problems with physical and sexual abuse. State officials also had uncovered problems at other Rebound facilities in Colorado. Rebound's nonprofit Adventures in Change program did not meet requirements to be licensed for drug and alcohol treatment nor meet "acceptable standards for habitation," according to a 1996 state audit. Auditors said the services, such as education, family counseling, vocational training and employment, "are not routinely provided." In his resignation letter as the facility's clinical coordinator, Paul Schmitz wrote: "This is no longer a professional treatment environment ... and is not supported by the company as such." In 1997, Florida officials severed the state's contract with Rebound to operate the Cypress Creek juvenile detention facility after repeated problems, including reports of disturbances that led to the arrests of several inmates for inciting a riot. Rebound also had operated in Maryland, where it ran the Charles H. Hickey Jr. School briefly in the early 1990s. Mr. Newman was the deputy secretary of Maryland's Department of Juvenile Services from 1992 to 1994, according to the state. He joined Rebound in 1995. The Hickey contract ended in 1993 after dozens of escapes, cases of alleged abuse and other policy violations. Dr. Davidson, the Illinois psychologist, said the past performance of Cornerstone and Rebound should raise concerns. "Anyone who had bothered to check the record of this corporation in Colorado and Florida and Maryland ..... would have easily discovered a troubling history of incompetence and fecklessness," he said.

Giles W. Dalby Correctional Facility
Post, Texas
Management and Training Corporation
October 18, 2013 lubbockonline.com

A former guard at a private prison in Post on Friday, Oct. 18, received two years probation for accepting a candy bar from an inmate as a bribe. “You know I’m giving you a break,” U.S. District Judge Sam R. Cummings said to Cesar Ceja, after defense attorney Rod Hobson suggested a long probation would achieve the same goals as a prison term would. Ceja replied, “Yes, your honor, I do.” He faced a maximum prison sentence of two years. Ceja, a guard at the Giles W. Dalby Correctional Facility, told investigators in February 2012 an inmate offered him a bribe to bring contraband into a prison. In that same interview, he admitted he’d accepted a Snickers candy bar from an inmate in exchange for chewing gum. Many jails and prisons classify chewing gum as contraband primarily because it can be used to jam a lock keyway. The Dalby facility is owned by Garza County and operated by Management and Training Corp., based in Centerville, Utah. The minimum security prison is a federal contract facility that houses men who may be awaiting deportation.

January 17, 2001
Sixteen federal prisoners confined to the Giles W. Dalby Correctional Facility in Post filed a class-action lawsuit Tuesday alleging violation of due process and their civil rights.  The inmates, all immigrant aliens in the United States, filed suit in U.S. District Court in Lubbock.  Management and Training Corporation runs the private prison, which contracts with the federal government to house inmates.  The lawsuit claims that Dalby inmate receive inadequate medical care, food, rehabilitation programs and legal supplies, among other complaints.  The plaintiffs seek that the Dalby prison be closed and permanently barred from operating as a federal prison.  (The Lubbock Avalanche-Journal)

August 1, 2000
A corrections officer suffered a concussion in a riot early Sunday morning at a medium-security prison in Post after being struck by an object thrown by an inmate, a county judge Giles Dalby said Monday.  He said the riot started on "Main Street," a wide outdoor sidewalk area that splits the facility's two holding areas.  According to Dalby, about 500 inmates gathered on the sidewalk at about 8:30 pm.  Saturday and began loitering and making demands to the correction officers.  "The officers were able to talk them down to about 250 inmates," Dalby said. "When the officers told them to lock up at around 12:30 am, some obeyed and some didn't.  A crowd of about 10 inmates stayed in the area."  The inmates then began to break wooden picnic tables and set them on fire.  They also pulled gutters off the side of the building and damaged seven surveillance cameras, Dalby said.  "That is when we pulled our people back to safety and called the safety response team," Dalby said.  According to Dalby, the number of inmates involved in the riot swelled to about 200 as the mayhem continued.  The facility's response team was called in at about 1:45 am Sunday and dispersed the crowd in 9 minutes using tear gas, Dalby said.  Dalby did not have an exact figure but estimated the damage to the facility to be sizable.  (The Lubbock Avalanche-Journal)

Harris County Schools
Harris County, Texas
Brown Schools
April 12, 2005 Houston Chronicle
A Harris County program that provides schools for 1,200 juvenile offenders and youths expelled from their home schools will continue to operate despite the bankruptcy of the company that runs it, a county official said Tuesday. Harvey Hetzel, director of the county's Juvenile Probation Department, told Commissioners Court that the county can temporarily take over management of the program if necessary. Brown Schools Inc. teaches about 600 youths in schools at the county's six detention facilities. It also runs a two-campus, state-mandated program for about 600 students expelled by local school districts. The Austin-based company filed for Chapter 7 bankruptcy March 25. Brown Schools runs boarding schools and educational facilities for youths in Texas, California, Florida, Idaho and Vermont. Brown officials didn't return calls. Brown Schools' methods have drawn criticism from state regulators and resulted in lawsuits against it, the Austin-American Statesman reported. Hetzel said he did not believe that any of the six legal settlements that led to $425,000 in unsecured claims listed in the bankruptcy filing stemmed from Brown School's operations in Harris County. Most of the lawsuits were brought by former residents of the company's residential treatment programs, not their school operations, Hetzel said.

Hector Garza Juvenile Detention Center
San Antonio, Texas
Cornell Companies

June 15, 2008 San Antonio Express-News
Sergio Fernández would rather not sound conspiratorial, but he has a hard time explaining why, despite an existing agreement, the federal government no longer sends detained immigrants to his San Antonio youth center. Though it's open for business, the four-story, 12-acre Hector Garza Residential Treatment Center near U.S. 281 and Loop 1604 on the North Side sits empty. Its last two residents left nearly two weeks ago. He hasn't been given an official explanation, but Fernández, the center's director, surmised it may have something to do with a lawsuit filed against him, his staff and his corporate parent by eight minors formerly housed at the center who claimed they suffered physical abuse and neglect. The center is privately owned and operated by Abraxas Youth and Family Services, the juvenile division of Houston-based corrections giant Cornell. The 121-bed center, a former psychiatric hospital, houses youths under state and federal contracts. The agreement with the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services is to temporarily oversee as many as 30 unauthorized immigrant minors pending their release or deportation. A spokesman for the federal agency did not return messages for comment on why immigrant youths — whose average stay is two to three months — are no longer sent to the center. The agency has also failed to respond to repeated requests in the past three months for tours and access to staff and residents of Hector Garza and other centers in the San Antonio area. Unlike other HHS-contracted “shelters” or dormitory-style campuses, the Hector Garza center is designated “staff secure” because it's a more restrictive setting meant to handle problematic youngsters. The lawsuit, filed in federal court in San Antonio in April, came as a result of a brawl between center residents and staff in February. Staffers called police to help quell the mayhem, which concluded with four minors under arrest. According to the suit, filed by Texas RioGrande Legal Aid, excessive violence used by staff and police symbolized incessant abuse that minors reported to supervisors to no avail. State and federal officials are accused of covering up abuse reports. Fernández said the allegations are ludicrous and malicious — legal and political maneuvering meant to buy minors more time for their immigration cases while making a for-profit juvenile detention business look bad. “They don't have one shred of evidence,” Fernández said Thursday while giving a reporter a tour of the center. “We're looking forward to seeing this through to be fully vindicated.” Though he couldn't discuss details of the February fracas for legal reasons, he already claimed victory after a state investigation cleared the center of abuse or neglect. The report from the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services faulted staffers for failing to remove one minor checking out the fight — a citation Fernández is appealing — but found no other violations. Pointing to cameras and microphones in the ceiling in the hallway where the clash took place, Fernández remained confident he'll win the suit because the fight was recorded. The three residential floors are split into two wings to separate resident populations — immigrant youngsters cannot have contact with youths housed under other contracts. Rooms have two single beds and a bathroom, and doors must remain open except during the day, when staff lock them while minors attend classes taught by the John H. Wood Jr. Charter School. Residential wings have classrooms, lounges with seascapes painted by the youngsters and laundry rooms — residents are encouraged, though not obliged, to wash their own clothes, Fernández said. The first floor has an intake area and cafeteria, while outside are picnic tables, a pool, a small soccer field and a 12-foot steel “no-climb” fence that replaced another barrier over which five minors had jumped to flee — three were caught. Fernández said overzealous lawyers preyed on minors' survival instincts, prompting them to sue the center. Staff and residents had cordial and even amiable relations before lawyers began showing up, he lamented. “Sometimes we feel like a pawn in a bigger issue,” he said. “But we're not about whether government policies are right or wrong. We're about providing a safe environment for the kids — that's it.”

May 16, 2008 CBS News
A new lawsuit filed against a private contractor who runs an immigrant child detention center claims nine teenagers were beaten and abused by employees who work for Cornell Companies. The company has been cited by immigration officials for safety problems in the past. The Hector Garza facility in San Antonio handles young immigrant “males with serious behavioral and psychological impairments”. “I think the general American has no idea these kids even exist,” said Susan Watson, Texas Rio Grande Legal Aid attorney for the nine plaintiffs, “When our own government treats them this way, they deserve their day in court,” she said. The plaintiffs claim they notified authorities of multiple beatings but no action was taken. One of the plaintiffs is described in court documents as a 16-year-old Honduran male identified as C.C. Arriving at the border alone, C.C. was put into custody for a week by Border Patrol agents. He was later transferred to the Hector Garza Center, where court filings claim a teacher “severely battered C.C. punching and kicking him, then beating him with a chair as he lay on the floor.” Lawsuit filings claim C.C. conveyed this to the authorities but nothing was done. A week later, court documents indicate C.C. came to the defense of another child who was being beaten. C.C. was hit again, this time losing consciousness and ended up in the hospital, according to the civil complaint. A spokesperson for Cornell Companies, Charles Seigel, says the company strongly denies any abuse, “Every complaint has been investigated by the company as well as by the state…and none of these have ever found any evidence of anything that can back up the charges.” Seigel said there was a time when one of the teenagers went to the hospital but said it was due to injuries from a fight between the detainees, not from an abusive teacher. This is not the first time Cornell Companies has been accused of safety problems. In September, the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agency pulled all 600 detainees from an Albuquerque jail run by Cornell. ICE spokeswoman Kelly Nantel said the agency, “had great concern over the health, safety and security of our detainees in the facility” but would not provide any more detail. News reports at the time described a dirty, crowded facility with excessive heat and poor medical conditions. Nantel said the agency terminated its memorandum of understanding with the company this winter. The Hector Garza San Antonio facility that contracted with the federal Office of Refugee and Resettlement (ORR) opened one month after ICE pulled their detainees from Cornell Companies’ care. The Office of Refugee Resettlement declined all comment citing the pending litigation. Cornell Companies is just one of the companies that manages 36 ORR facilities nationwide. Documentation of care for immigrant detainee children in these detention centers across the country is poor according to a March, 2008 report from the Inspector General for Health and Human Services. The report found, based on a sampling of case files, that more than half lacked one or more required assessments for the children. Half did not contain education records and more than half did not include notes from counseling sessions. Auditors say this left it unclear whether children were receiving services at all.

Holden Wal-Mart
Holden, Texas
Group 4

August 28, 2006 Tyler Morning Telegraph
Just days before jury selection was scheduled to begin on Tuesday, Wal-Mart settled a wrongful death lawsuit for an undisclosed amount with the parents of Megan LeAnn Holden, a clerk who was kidnapped from the Tyler supercenter's parking lot and murdered. Attorneys for Ms. Holden's parents, Sheri Kay Dunlap and James Vincent Holden, said the terms of the Wal-Mart settlement were confidential. The Wackenhut Corp, which provided security for the store, was also named in the lawsuit and settled for $1.3 million, according to court records. Ms. Dunlap, "would like to see this as a beginning to Wal-Mart making its parking lots safer for its customers and employees, not just in Tyler, but everywhere," said her attorney, John "Rusty" Phenix, of Henderson. Jury selection for the case was scheduled to begin in U.S. District Judge T. John Ward's Marshall court Tuesday, but, on Friday, Phenix sent a letter to the court announcing the sealed settlement. Attorney Randell "Randy" Roberts, of Tyler, said his client, Holden, was "very glad to have this entire matter behind him." Ms. Holden was abducted Jan. 19, 2005, from the Wal-Mart Supercenter by Johnny Lee Williams Jr., who pleaded guilty last year to capital murder - kidnapping, sexually assaulting, strangling and shooting to death Ms. Holden to death before he allegedly discarded her body in a West Texas ditch. He also pleaded guilty to aggravated robbery and was sentenced to five stacked life sentences. Surveillance footage released by law enforcement showed Williams following Ms. Holden to her pickup in the Wal-Mart parking lot, rushing up behind her, shoving her into the vehicle and driving off. Before the abduction, the video showed a security guard talking to the suspect.

Hood County Juvenile Detention Center
Hood County, Texas
Management and Training Corporation

February 1, 2006 Hood County News
The now abandoned county juvenile detention center drew attention from two county judge candidates at the political forum Monday night for candidates in the March 7 Republican primary. Precinct 2 county commissioner Charles Baskett placed the blame on county judge Andy Rash for the loss of $837,00 in operating expenses at the juvenile detention center (JDC). Rash countered that the county inherited the JDC problem and took action to try and protect their credit rating. In addition to Baskett and incumbent judge Rash, former Granbury mayor Rick Frye is also seeking election to the position of county judge. Baskett said the juvenile detention center was built by an outside contractor, who then leased the facility to the county. The county then sub-leased the facility to MTC, the company that ran the facility as a JDC for about a year. “At the end of a year, they had lost $1.2 million. They (MTC) cancelled their lease with the county and left town,” Baskett said. “I tried to find someone to come back in to run the facility as a JDC. No one was interested. They couldn’t make the numbers work. “Then the juvenile board came up with a budget, and it was put on the commissioners’ court agenda to determine whether Hood County should run the facility.” Baskett contends the center was supposed to be run by a private enterprise, and that the county had no business getting involved in managing the center. “It was a 3-2 vote to run the center on our own. We had no obligation to do it,” Baskett said. “We ran it for a few months and lost $837,000 before we had to discontinue. We held the lease. We could have given it up. “They said they were worried about losing our bond rating, and that’s why we should continue to operate the facility. We lost it (bond rating) anyway. “We should have never tried to run that facility ourselves. Now our bond rating is BBB.” “Had we terminated our lease and not attempted to operate, both Standard and Poor, and Moody threatened to lower our bond rating to BBB-,” he said.

Horizon Detention Complex (Intermediate Sanction Facility & Multipurpose Facility)
Horizon City, Texas
Avalon

April 17, 2003
A proposal to replace sex offenders with other inmates at the El Paso Multi-Use Facility in Horizon City was met with outrage by the community at a public meeting Wednesday evening.  Next year, Avalon would like to change the terms of the contract and stop housing paroled sex offenders, in favor of pre-parolees of various backgrounds.  "Even murderers?" exclaimed Horizon resident Brenda Carroll.  "When they started, we were told it was going to be white-collar crimes;  not it's sex offenders and, what? Murderers? Our kids are the ones playing hide-and-seek around here."  (El Paso Times)

March 9, 2002
The El Paso County Sheriff's Department responded to a call of a possibly dangerous escaped prisoner in Horizon City Thursday night, but deputies had to wait about 45 minutes before prison officials would give them useful information to start a manhunt, the Sheriff's Department said. He said he understood that if prison officials suspect that a prisoner has escaped, they first follow prison procedures before contacting the Sheriff's Department. But in this case, he said, someone in the prison called the Sheriff's Department before the prison was ready to give information to the deputies. When deputies arrived, they had to wait for the prison to finish its escapee procedure. "A whole 45 minutes went by before we could do our jobs," Apodaca said. Southern Corrections, a subsidiary of Avalon Correctional Services of Oklahoma City, runs the Intermediate Sanction Facility under contract with the West Texas Community Supervision and Corrections Department. (El Paso Times)

September 3, 2001
Few people can blame Horizon City residents for being concerned about safety in the wake of two inmate escapes in June.  The company in charge of these private facilities is challenged to assuage resident's fears with an improved safety performance.  The two facilities near Horizon are privately operated.  The jury is still out on the state's, and in fact the nation's, experiment with private companies operating prisons and detention facilities.  In the bigger picture, taxpayers are left to wonder if these facilities truly are as secure as state-operated prisons.  (El Paso Times)

August 29, 2001
When two men escaped within one week in June from the private detention centers near Horizon City, officials said both were freak incidents in a well-run system.  But several former inmates of both centers, one a combination minimum-security prison and halfway house for parole violators and one a guarded halfway house for probation violators, said escapes were commonplace and just one of many problems.  During their incarceration, they said, escaping was easy, as residents took advantage of guard staffing shortages and the centers' reliance on security cameras to slip away undetected.  Avalon arrived in Horizon City in the early 1990s, part of the trend to shift responsibility for inmates from public to private prisons.  By cutting back on staff pay rates or replacing positions with surveillance equipment, the private prisons were able to cut the costs of housing residents.  As residents lined up for their medication or meals, they would pass time by studying the televisions that displayed the camera footage used in lieu of live guards.  Residents quickly discovered the dead spots that surveillance cameras did not cover, Estes and other former residents said.  Allegations of intimidation from gangs, mistreatment by guards and a lack of response to the complaints filed about such issues were among the list of residents' complaints.  Residents attributed most of the problems to a staff they called inexperienced and underpaid.  County probation officials, who pay the centers to house some of their probation violators, acknowledged that the $7-an-hour rate for guards leads to frequent turnover and constant retraining.  Avalon officials acknowledged the high turnover rate, Smith said.  But before the company can increase guard pay, the facilities have to increase occupancy rates to become more profitable.  "That's just something a private company is going to have to deal with," Smith said.  "They won't be able to pay what states do.  We save taxpayers money by charging lower per diem."  (El Paso Times)

June 28, 2001
Two men escaped from a Horizon minimum-security detention complex within the past three days -- one after climbing a wall and separating razor wire with his bare hands, the second by simply walking away.  The first escapee, Floyd Ray Smith Jr., escaped Monday and was arrested Wednesday in his hometown of Kerrville, Texas, about 500 miles away.  The second escapee, Lloyd Jacquez, left the detention complex shortly before 5 a.m. Wednesday and was still missing.  The escapees were residents of a pair of minimum-security detention facilities on Horizon Boulevard a few miles outside the limits of Horizon City.  One of the buildings is the Intermediate Sanction Facility and home to about 100 probation violators.  Next door is the Multipurpose Facility, which houses 229 parole violators, including 26 sex offenders.  Southern Corrections, a subsidiary of Avalon Correctional Services of Oklahoma City, runs both facilities under contract with the Texas Department of Criminal Justice and the El Paso Probation Department.  Smith had about eight hours to get away before facility officials noticed his absence during a head count conducted about 2 p.m., Lopez said.  Six hours later, shortly after 8 p.m., complex officials notified the Sheriff's Department.  Private detention complexes usually do not notify local officials immediately when inmates escape, as opposed to escapees from public prisons, officials of the Sheriff's Department said.  (El Paso Times) 

Houston, Texas
Federal Bureau of Prisons

November 22, 2004 Houston Chronicle
Companies are scouting for sites to build a 190-bed federal halfway house, but residents of the neighborhood where it could be built might not get to air their thoughts at a public hearing. The U.S. Bureau of Prisons does not require such hearings, and federal agencies are not bound by a Texas law that mandates such hearings be held before state-funded halfway houses open. Victor Trevino, constable of Precinct 6, where one company had proposed building the halfway house, said Monday: "Any involvement of government, whether it is federal, state or HISD — they definitely should have a responsibility to inform its citizens." Bannum, a New Port Richey, Fla.-based company that runs 13 federal halfway houses nationwide, has informed the county that it will bid on the contract, but it has not disclosed the sites it is considering. Bannum officials did not return calls. Commissioner Lee, whose precinct includes the Lee Road location, said Correctional Systems should have done better research and should have been in a position to explain why it was recommending three or four sites to county officials. Companies and public agencies "site these facilities where they'll find the least resistance and the cheapest land costs," he said.

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

Houston Independent School District
Houston, Texas
Aramark

June 10, 2002
In a bold vote in 1997, the Houston Independent School District privatized the management of its massive food services program amid a politically charged fight for the lucrative contract.   Part of then-Superintendent Rod Paige's much-touted reform aimed at focusing district energies on education rather than business, this battle was mostly about money. When the dust settled, Aramark, a Philadelphia-based powerhouse in a joint venture with the local Quality Concession Foods, won the five-year contract.   On Thursday, HISD trustees will vote on whether to continue with the Aramark team, the sole bidder.   But once again the contract has sparked political fire, this time from state Sen. Mario Gallegos, D-Houston, who contends Hispanics, the city's largest ethnic group, have not gotten an equitable piece of the action.   During the four years of the food services management contract, says Gallegos, African-American firms were paid more than $3.7 million. The bulk of that went to Quality Concession, an MWBE owned by Darryl King, a former chairman of the Houston Area Urban League, to help manage food services. Only $15,000 went to a Hispanic firm.   The sole $15,000 Hispanic contract he cites in the letter went to his longtime political consultant and ally, Marc Campos. The services rendered: Campos lobbied for Aramark when it sought the contract in 1997.   Campos since has been dropped. But Aramark and King are in the midst of hiring Powersól Communications,  state-certified MWBE owned by Hector Careño and Frank McCune to internally market the free and subsidized lunch program to students and their parents.   "I did what any entrepreneur would do," says King. "I got myself educated, followed the privatization story and prepared myself for the opportunity that was coming. "I invited Aramark to partner with me. They didn't come to town and pick a politically connected black person."  (The Houston Chronicle)

Houston Processing Center
Houston, Texas
CCA

July 21, 2010 Courthouse News
In a perfect immigration nightmare, a U.S. citizen claims the Department of Homeland Security arrested her in her own home, imprisoned, threatened and intimidated her and denied her food, water and medication unless she admitted she was someone else. Then it deported her to Honduras, where she was immediately imprisoned as an illegal alien, held in prison for 3 weeks and sexually assaulted by "an officer of the Honduran government." Even after she returned home, she says, U.S. immigration agents continue to harass her and threaten to arrest her again. Diane Williams, 35, "a natural-born citizen of the United States," claims she was arrested in her Houston home on Jan. 18, 2009, by "a Special Agent of the Department of Homeland Security-Immigration and Customs Enforcement (hereinafter 'ICE') by the name of Rolando Jimenez, and other unidentified ICE agents." Williams says she showed the agents her Louisiana birth certificate, but they arrested her anyway, and accused her of Angelique Bethany Cortez Rodriguez, a citizen of Honduras. She claims the "ICE officers made no attempt whatsoever to verify the plaintiff's claim to U.S. citizenship," but took her to the prison run by the Corrections Corporation of America, on a contract with DHS. The agents did this though she "repeatedly informed the arresting officers that she was a United States citizen and offered the names and contact numbers of several family members who could confirm her identity," Williams says. Inside the CCA prison, Williams says, she was denied prescribed medications for seizures, asthma and emotional disorders. She says that after 3 days she was allowed to take medication for asthmas and seizures, "but was denied the medications for her emotional disorders by officials of the Public Health Service." Also inside the prison, Williams says, she "was interviewed in a hostile, threatening and aggressive manner by various ICE officers including Rolando Jimenez, Tak Wong, and other unidentified officers." The complaint continues: "She was awakened and interrogated in the middle of the night, denied food and water, and held in holding cells at extremely low temperatures and without functional plumbing for hours. "Plaintiff was told by Officer Rolando Jimenez and Officer Tak Wong that she would be jailed for four years and still deported if she refused to admit that she was 'Angelique Bethany Cortez Rodriguez, and a citizen of Honduras." Afraid of spending 4 years in prison, "and in an unstable mental state due to the denial of her medications," Williams says she signed the statement. Three weeks later she was deported to Honduras. "Plaintiff did not have legal representation at any point during this process, and was effectively denied from seeking legal counsel due to her detention and repeated placement in solitary confinement," she says. Nor did ICE follow the proper procedure and ask the Honduran Consulate to verify her nationality - which would have short-circuited her ordeal, she says. The complaint continues: "Shortly after arrival in Honduras, plaintiff was arrested by officials of the Honduran government as an alien and held in custody in that country for approximately three weeks. "While detained by Honduran officials, she was denied bathing facilities, slept on the floor, was fed irregularly and was sexually assaulted by an officer of the Honduran government." Finally, 72 days after her nightmare began, "On March 31, 2009, the U.S. Embassy in Honduras issued plaintiff a U.S. passport after receiving her birth certificate from her family in the United States and investigating to their satisfaction her claim to U.S. citizenship. "She was given a loan by the U.S. Embassy in Honduras for half of the purchase price of a ticket to the United States (her family paid the other half), and returned legally to the United States through the Miami port of entry on March 31, 2009. "After returning to the United States Plaintiff has been subject to continuing harassment and abuse by officers acting under the authority of ICE and other government agencies, in spite of demonstrating evidence of her status as a citizen of the United States, including the continued existence of an immigration warrant encouraging her arrest by any law enforcement agency in the United States." (Parentheses in complaint.) Williams seeks damages from the United States of America for negligence, false imprisonment, intentional infliction of emotional distress, malicious prosecution, abuse of process, assault and malpractice. She is represented by Lawrence Rushton of Bellaire, Texas.

June 8, 2010 Houston Chronicle
Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials are preparing to roll out a series of changes at several privately owned immigration detention centers, including relaxing some security measures for low-risk detainees and offering art classes, bingo and continental breakfast on the weekends. The changes, detailed in an internal ICE e-mail obtained by the Houston Chronicle, were welcomed by immigrant advocates who have been waiting for the Obama administration to deliver on a promise made in August to overhaul the nation's immigration detention system. The 28 changes identified in the e-mail range from the superficial to the substantive. In addition to “softening the look of the facility” with hanging plants and offering fresh carrot sticks, ICE will allow for the “free movement” of low-risk detainees, expand visiting hours and provide unmonitored phone lines. ICE officials said the changes are part of broader efforts to make the immigration detention system less penal and more humane. But the plans are prompting protests by ICE's union leaders, who say they will jeopardize the safety of agents, guards and detainees and increase the bottom line for taxpayers. Tre Rebstock, president for Local 3332, the ICE union in Houston, likened the changes to creating “an all-inclusive resort” for immigration detainees. “Our biggest concern is that someone is going to get hurt,” he said, taking particular issue with plans to relax restrictions on the movement of low-risk detainees and efforts to reduce and eliminate pat-down searches. The changes outlined in the ICE e-mail are planned for nine detention centers owned and operated by Corrections Corporation of America, including the 900-bed Houston Contract Detention Facility on the city's north side. Some of the changes will be implemented within 30 days; others may take up to six months, said Beth Gibson, ICE's senior counselor to Assistant Secretary John Morton and a leader of the detention reform effort. Other major changes include: • Eliminating lockdowns and lights-out for low-risk detainees. • Allowing visitors to stay as long as they like in a 12-hour period. • Providing a unit manger so detainees have someone to report problems to other than the guard. • Allowing low-risk detainees to wear their own clothing or other non-penal attire. • Providing e-mail access and Internet-based free phone service. Not about punishment Gibson said the improvements are part of ICE's efforts to detain immigrants in the least restrictive manner possible while ensuring they leave the country if ordered to do so. “When people come to our custody, we're detaining them to effect their removal,” Gibson said. “It's about deportation. It's not about punishing people for a crime they committed.” ICE officials have faced pressure from immigrant advocates and some members of Congress to improve the detention conditions for the roughly 400,000 immigrants it houses annually. The agency has relied on a hodgepodge of more than 250 government-run detention centers, private prisons and local jails to accommodate its growing population — with roughly one in four detainees held in Texas. At the CCA facilities that have agreed to ICE's changes, detainees will see more variety in their dining hall menus and have self-serve beverage and fresh vegetable bars. CCA also plans to offer movie nights, bingo, arts and crafts, dance and cooking classes, tutoring and computer training, the e-mail states. Detainees also will be allowed four hours or more of recreation “in a natural setting, allowing for robust aerobic exercise.” CCA also committed to improving the look of the facilities, such as requiring plants, fresh paint and new bedding in lower-risk units. Advocates pleased Some of the improvements offered at the CCA facilities counted as hard-fought victories for immigrant advocates, including plans to improve visitor and attorney access. “A lot of these measures are what we've been advocating for,” said Lory Rosenberg, policy and advocacy director for Refugee and Migrants' Rights for Amnesty International. “Many of these points are very important to changing the system from a penal system, which is inappropriate in an immigration context, to a civil detention system.” Union members said they have concerns about the plans, primarily focusing on safety. Rebstock said some detainees may be classified as low-risk because they have no serious criminal history but still may be gang members that “haven't been caught doing anything wrong yet.” He also said eliminating lockdowns will make it more difficult to protect detainees from one another. He said reducing or eliminating pat-down searches could allow contraband into the facilities, including weapons. G