by Matt Clarke
On June 27, 2019, private prison operator The GEO Group, based in Boca Raton, Florida, announced that it would stop operating the Northeast New Mexico Detention Facility in Clayton.
The company cited inadequate compensation in its contract that made it impossible to recruit and retain staff in the rural area where the facility is located, which borders Texas. GEO said it steadily lost employees to higher-paying state prison jobs in New Mexico and across the border. However, it agreed to a 90-day extension of its contract, which expired in August 2019, to allow for a transition to state control of the facility.
GEO Group worked with the town of Clayton to design the 180,000-square-foot, 625-bed prison, which opened in 2008. The town owns the facility and GEO has operated it since then. The company also manages two other prisons in New Mexico: the Guadalupe County Correctional Facility in Santa Rosa and the Lea County Correctional Center in Hobbs.
Including the Northeast New Mexico Detention Facility, five of the 11 prisons in New Mexico are privately operated, with CoreCivic and Management & Training Corporation each running one. Unique among the states, over half of New Mexico’s prison ...
by David M. Reutter
A legislative audit, released in December 2018, concluded that it costs Georgia about 10 percent more to house comparable prisoners in private prisons than in state-run facilities. The audit, completed as part of a study on criminal justice reforms, found that it costs $44.56 per diem for prisoners housed in state prisons compared to $49.07 per diem at private prisons.
The Georgia Department of Corrections (GDOC) has an average population of about 50,000 prisoners and an annual budget of around $1.2 billion. The state pays GEO Group and CoreCivic (formerly Corrections Corporation of America) nearly $140 million a year to house about 15 percent of its prison population – some 7,800 prisoners – at four privately-operated prisons: the Coffee County Correctional Facility, Jenkins Correctional Facility, Wheeler Correctional Facility and Riverbend Correctional Facility.
The audit found that across all categories of prisoners, the GDOC spends an average of $65.58 per diem when medical and maximum-security units are included. The auditors screened for prisoners’ gender, facility size and risk classification in private and state prisons when making a comparative analysis of housing costs.
Georgia House Appropriations Committee Chairman Terry England ...
by David M. Reutter and Kevin Bliss
An activist investor organization has forced Boca Raton, Florida-based GEO Group, which operates or manages almost 75,000 for-profit detention facility beds across the U.S., to adopt a shareholder resolution requiring the company to issue a report on implementation of its human rights policy.
Under pressure from the Interfaith Center on Corporate Responsibility (ICCR), GEO Group adopted its first human rights policy in 2013 after reports surfaced in the news media – including in PLN – of deaths and poor conditions in the company’s facilities due to understaffing and cost-cutting. ICCR began buying small amounts of stock in GEO with the intent of guiding it toward a more responsible position regarding human rights for prisoners and detainees.
Originally founded to force businesses to divest from South Africa during apartheid, ICCR is a coalition of asset managers, unions, pensions, non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and faith organizations with over $400 billion in managed assets that invests in corporations to influence their practices and increase accountability.
Citing ICCR’s “ongoing engagements with GEO around human rights concerns for seven years,” Father Bryan Pham, S.J., of Jesuits West – one of the ICCR coalition members ...
by Matt Clarke
Undocumented immigrants in the United States often face wage theft when their employers underpay or refuse to pay them for their labor. A federal class-action lawsuit filed by the Attorney General for the State of Washington has highlighted how such workers continue to face wage theft even when in the custody of Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). [See: PLN, Dec. 2018, p.20; June 2018, p.38].
The suit sought the state minimum wage for ICE detainees held at the 1,575-bed Northwest Detention Center in Tacoma, who were being paid $1.00 a day to labor for the facility’s operator, The GEO Group. On May 13, 2019, a federal district court granted partial summary judgment to the state and dismissed several affirmative defenses raised by GEO.
In 2017, Attorney General Bob Ferguson filed the lawsuit seeking to enforce Washington’s Minimum Wage Act, which requires workers to be paid at least $12 an hour. GEO was paying detainees who participated in ICE’s Voluntary Work Program (VWP) just $1.00 per day. VWP workers “collect and distribute laundry, prepare and serve food, clean, paint interior walls, and use electric shears to cut hair.”
ICE contracts with GEO ...
by Chad Marks
Lara Ann Gillis, a 47-year-old mother, died in December 2015 after spending just over 24 hours at a county jail.
Gillis was arrested on December 4, 2015 in Monterey County, California on suspicion of being under the influence of drugs, obstructing law enforcement and possession of marijuana ...
by Ed Lyon
Corizon Health, headquartered in Brentwood, Tennessee, is the nation’s largest private prison and jail healthcare provider. The company has, for many years, been mentioned in Prison Legal News – usually in connection with misconduct by Corizon employees, grossly inadequate medical care and lawsuits resulting in verdicts and settlements. [See, e.g.: PLN, Nov. 2018, p.60; Feb. 2017, p.32, 56; Sept. 2013, p.47].
Since 2017, Arizona state prisoner Arron Shawn Bossardet has been pursuing a lawsuit against Arizona DOC director Charles Ryan and Corizon employees concerning medical-related issues. He is represented by Phoenix attorney Stacy Scheff. On February 19, 2019, Scheff filed a motion seeking sanctions against the defendants for a plethora of discovery violations. She then followed up in March 2019, asking the federal district court to appoint an expert witness.
Scheff took the defendants to task for allowing Bossardet to be transferred from an Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) compliant prison to a non-compliant facility. She also pointed out that many documents obtained in discovery did not agree with each other and many of the documents that were automatically required to be disclosed were missing or omitted. Some of the inconsistent ...
Hawaii has long been considered a tropical paradise, but those who run afoul of the law on the islands stand a good chance of being exiled. Over a third of Hawaii’s prisoners are shipped to a privately-operated facility in Arizona to serve the majority of their sentences.
Critics have charged that separating prisoners from their families risks the possibility of increased recidivism, but the issue that has grabbed headlines is the cost. Tickets for chartered flights from Honolulu to the Saguaro Correctional Center, operated by CoreCivic (formerly Corrections Corporation of America) jumped from around $1,300 each in 2016 to $1,800 in 2018. The transportation costs totaled about $2.2 million, in addition to the $45 million per year to house prisoners at Saguaro.
Overcrowding in Hawaii’s eight detention centers has left state lawmakers with few good options. The prison system’s 3,500 beds have been holding nearly 5,400 – a situation that has forced double- or triple-occupancy of single-man cells, with some prisoners having to sleep on the floor.
A complaint filed by the ACLU in 2017 demanded that action be taken to alleviate the overcrowded conditions, but the legislature balked at the potential $2 ...
by Scott Grammer
Oumer Salim, a resident of Colleyville, Texas, wanted to communicate with his brother, who was in an Ohio state prison. The facility used JPay for video calling, at a cost of $9.90 for each 30-minute session. So Salim began using the system. He noticed a recurring problem, however – the video calls consistently cut off before the 30 minutes were up. After that happened around 30 times, Salim, represented by Dallas attorney Bruce W. Steckler, filed a class-action lawsuit in federal district court on October 12, 2018.
According to his suit, “complaints from around the country indicate families and friends of inmates consistently complain that video sessions do not last the entire 30 minutes session.” The total amount of damages was estimated to be in excess of $5,000,000.
The complaint alleged that “JPay intentionally manipulates the 30-minute session to provide less than 30 minutes of video time; ... JPay engaged in unlawful unfair methods of competition, unconscionable acts or practices, and unfair or deceptive acts or practices; ... JPay breached its contracts with Plaintiff and the Class; ... JPay breached the implied covenant of good faith and fair dealing with Plaintiff and the Class; ... JPay ...
by Kevin W. Bliss
After Florida Senate President Joe Negron stepped down from his office in the legislature, he was immediately hired by the same private prison company that he helped secure $6.9 million in state funding over the past two years.
The Boca Raton-based GEO Group announced on November 29, 2018 that Negron would fill retired John Bulfin’s post as the company’s general counsel, a position that pays $400,000 annually for a “continuous ‘rolling’ two-year term” with renewal options for up to the next 10 years, according to an SEC filing. Bulfin’s annual salary was over $500,000 and he had an overall compensation package of $2.5 million. When asked what Negron’s compensation package would be, GEO spokesman Pablo Paez refused to comment.
GEO Group had supported Negron and the senate committees he controlled since 2013, making more than $300,000 in political contributions. In addition, financial records show the company donated over $100,000 to Negron’s wife, Rebecca, and to Conservative Congress Now! – a super PAC that supported her failed 2016 congressional bid.
GEO Group operates five of Florida’s seven private prisons, for which the current state budget – which Negron had a hand ...
by Dale Chappell
A recent article in the journal Criminology & Public Policy posed the question of whether private, for-profit companies should be allowed to contract with government agencies to be the sole provider of criminal justice-related services, without public transparency or oversight of the prices or fees set by those companies.
While the focus of privatization in our nation’s corrections system is often on companies that operate prisons and rake in billions of dollars in revenue, another lucrative market exists for businesses that provide other criminal justice services the government would rather farm out. Private companies then effectively become substitutes for public agencies, but are able to hide behind a veil of secrecy that only corporations enjoy.
Parolees, probationers and other people on supervised release typically have numerous court-ordered stipulations they must follow, such as home detention, electronic monitoring, ignition-interlock devices on their vehicles, substance abuse treatment, payment of fines, fees and restitution, and various other requirements.
Private businesses often provide such services, which come at a price – and the parolee, probationer or defendant is usually the one who pays.
For example, in Seattle, Washington, companies install and manage court-ordered ignition interlock devices for DUI offenders. The cost ...