by Daniel A. Rosen
An Alabama judge recently ruled on a legal challenge seeking to block Governor Kay Ivey’s plan to lease three new privately-built mega-prisons in the state, siding with the Governor. Republican State Auditor Jim Ziegler and others had sued to block the leases, claiming they were an unconstitutional debt to the State that could only be approved by the Legislature.
The Governor’s plan calls for two 3,000-bed prisons built by and leased from CoreCivic (formerly Corrections Corporation of America) in Elmore and Escambia counties, which the state would then operate for 30 years. A third prison in Bibb County is still under negotiation. All three prisons would be owned by private companies but managed and staffed by Alabama’s state Department of Corrections (ADOC).
Montgomery County Circuit Court Judge Greg Griffin dismissed the plaintiffs’ claims that the $3 billion debt violated state law. “Specifically, this Court finds that the Leases do not constitute a debt to the state, and therefore are not unconstitutional,” Judge Griffin ruled.
Ziegler sued first in his capacity as the State’s Auditor, but the Court dismissed that claim, ruling that his standing was superseded by the Attorney General, who filed a petition to dismiss. ...
by Dale Chappell
The Environmental Protection Agency issued a report and warning in March 2021 to GEO Group for misuse and abuse of a disinfectant at its ICE Processing Center in Adelanto, California. The report says that GEO was applying HQD Neutral in a manner that was in violation of federal law and cited numerous problems with the way GEO was using the toxic chemical to disinfect housing areas in the 2,000-bed facility to fight the spread of COVID-19.
More significantly, a federal court issued a preliminary injunction enjoining the use of the disinfectant and also found the government and GEO’s response to COVID to be inadequate and unreasonable. In doing so, it reaffirmed its preliminary injunction ruling.
The announced inspection happened on July 29, 2020, at the Adelanto facility after more than 250,000 people signed a petition to stop Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) from misusing the chemical there. A congressman also pushed for a hearing on the matter, according to the EPA’s report. Inspectors held a “virtual inspection” which lasted 90 minutes.” When inspectors requested a full tour of the facility, GEO refused and said it was up to ICE officials. GEO managers at the facility also refused ...
by Douglas Ankney
On March 16, 2021, the Queens Daily Eagle reported that the federal government had declined to renew a contract with for-profit prison contractor GEO Group to operate the Queens Detention Facility (QDF). QDF was New York City’s last privately-operated jail.
GEO contracted with the U.S. Marshalls Service to detain cooperating witnesses, aka snitches, while awaiting trial or sentencing in the federal courts. QDF was one facility used by GEO to detain those persons.
But beginning in spring of 2020, reports of inadequate protocols to detect, treat, and prevent the spread of COVID-19 at QDF began circulating in the media, the Office of the Attorney General (OAG), headed by New York Attorney General Letitia James, launched an investigation into conditions at QDF after learning of complaints that GEO failed to separate symptomatic detainees from the general population; failed to provide sufficient personal protective equipment (PPE) for staff and detainees; and failed to provide adequate medical care. At QDF the detainees sleep in bunk beds crowded into seven open dormitories - a condition highly conducive to the transmission of the coronavirus, “Everyone’s coughing [and] sneezing on top of each other,” a detainee reported on April 3, 2020. At that ...
by Matt Clarke
On May 28, 2021, the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit held that Corrections Corporation of America (now known as CoreCivic) was not entitled to summary judgment in a lawsuit over a pretrial detainee held for 355 days in solitary confinement without a court appearance or attorney. The court held that a reasonable jury could find that CoreCivic caused the prolonged detention by failing to notify the US Marshals of his circumstances and actively discouraging him from pursuing the matter. It also held that he had established triable issues for all of his claims.
The US Marshals Service (Marshals) arrested Rudy Rivera in Los Angeles, California on a federal warrant issued in Nevada for marijuana-related charges. They took him to the Nevada Southern Detention Center, a private prison operated by CoreCivic, which primarily holds detainees for the Marshals. Because he was a former gang member, Rivera was held in protective administrative segregation, virtually isolated from other prisoners and having direct contact only with CoreCivic staff.
According to court documents, during his detention, Rivera repeatedly told prison staff he had not been to court and did not have an attorney. They told him to “[j]ust ...
California Inspector General’s office issues another reports highly critical of health care at Corcoran and statewide prison employee disciplinary process
by Matt Clarke
In April 2021, the California Office of the Inspector General (OIG) issued a report highly critical of the medical care prisoners received at the 2,976-man California State Prison at Corcoran. It rated the overall quality of prisoner medical services at Corcoran inadequate. In May 2021, the OIG issued a second report highly critical of the investigation of employee misconduct and the employee disciplinary process in the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR), giving it an overall rating of poor.
One of the cases highlighted in the latter report involved the decapitation of a prisoner newly arrived at Corcoran who was housed in segregation with a prisoner who had a history of assaulting his cellmates and murdering and dismembering people. While the prisoner was being tortured, decapitated and dismembered, several guards failed to properly perform cell checks and falsified documents saying they saw the beheaded prisoner alive. One later lied to investigators.
A lawsuit filed by the mother of the decapitated prisoner brought many of the facts of the case to light. [PLN, Oct. 2020, p. 42]. ...
by Dale Chappell
Over five years ago, federal prosecutors in Kansas used recordings of attorney visits and phone calls to obtain convictions in numerous criminal cases. The recordings were made by a private prison in Leavenworth owned by Corrections Corporation of America (CCA, which has since changed its name to CoreCivic), and then handed over to prosecutors. Once this scam was exposed, hundreds of prisoners filed motion to toss their criminal cases. Despite that the federal court found the prosecutors were in contempt of court for refusing to turn over the evidence it illegally obtained, the government still tried to white-wash its disgraceful acts through multiple court challenges and complaints.
The government’s latest attempt was an appeal in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit, where the government complained that the district court’s investigation into the recorded meetings and calls was unlawful and that the judge’s criticism of the government’s acts was harmful to the government’s other cases stemming from those acts. It said that these things could harm the cases still open that are challenging possible constitutional violations by the government and CCA. But the Court of Appeals ruled on May 4, 2021, that the government’s appeal ...
by David M. Reutter
A California federal district court held that CoreCivic, Inc., must pay attorney fees in a defamation lawsuit. The court held the calculation of fees in abeyance until the resolution of appeals related to the dismissal and whether it could award fees.
The court’s April 6, 2021 order was in response to a motion for “attorney fees under California’s anti-SLAPP statute after the complaint for defamation was lost at the pleading stage.” CoreCivic runs private prisons and detention centers. It sued Morgan Simon and her Candide Group, LLC, a firm that promotes socially responsible investing.
“Mixing reporting, advocacy, and self-promotion, her articles focused on the role of activist groups, like the #FamiliesBelongTogether movement and her own investment firm, in pushing for banks to stop investing in the private prison industry,” the court wrote, noting that she wrote the articles as a senior contributing writer for Forbes magazine. “Simon’s articles named CoreCivic in the controversy surrounding the separation of family members at the border.”
CoreCivic sued for defamation. Simon and Candide moved to dismiss under California’s anti-SLAPP statute. That law allows a “special motion” to strike when a plaintiff brings a “cause of action against a person arising ...
by Keith Sanders
A recent investigation by KARE 11, a Minnesota-based NBC news affiliate, has brought much-needed attention to systematic failures at jails throughout Minnesota. Many local and state correctional facilities in that state, according to the months-long investigation, do not provide prisoners with adequate medical and mental health care. ...
On February 9, 2021, the Seventh Circuit court of appeals held that a district court erred when it departed significantly from Pruitt v. Mote, 503 F.3d 647 (7th Cir. 2007) in its consideration of a mentally ill Illinois prisoner’s motion to recruit counsel. The court held that assistance of counsel likely would have changed the outcome of the summary judgment dismissal of a claim against a Wexford Health Services psychiatrist and reversed the dismissal.
Illinois Department of Corrections (DOC) prisoner Shawn Eagan suffers from serious mental illnesses. He was in a mental health crisis and repeatedly banging his head against his cell wall and window at the Pontiac Correctional Center when guards called Dr. Michael Dempsey, a psychiatrist employed by Wexford to provide psychiatric services and medication there.
This was the second time Dempsey had been called that day because of Eagan’s headbanging. He had warned Eagan that continued headbanging would result in an involuntary injection so he ordered enforced injections of 10 mg of Haldol and 50 mg of Benadryl. Over the ensuing two days, Eagan allegedly suffered from painful involuntary muscle contractions and a locked open jaw due to the injection. Dr. Dempsey allegedly ...
A three-hour uprising at a privately-run medium security prison in New Mexico on November 2, 2020, led to a few prisoner injuries, a fire and property destruction. It was an “incident [that] absolutely could have been prevented,” said said the state’s Corrections Secretary Alisha Tafoya Lucero.
But the clash between guards and prisoners of one cellblock at the GEO-run Lea County Correctional Facility in Hobbs did not generate public statements or press conferences. It was mostly kept under wraps until reporting by KRQE News 13 on February 16, 2021.
Over two months, the media outlet examined prison security video, handheld camera recordings taken by security staff and documents via public records requests.
One prisoner was located unconscious in his cell. In addition, prisoners armed with homemade weapons reportedly began a fire on the upper tier, plus disabled a security camera and wrecked sprinkler heads and some furnishings.
“Tensions rose after prisoners refused repeated directives to lockdown. Inmates attempted to negotiate with prison staff to remain out of their cells,” KRQE reported. “Some prisoners were visibly drunk from a supply of homemade alcohol (hooch). After inmates refused commands to ‘lockdown,’ they gathered in the pod day room, barricaded doors, and took ...