The provision of medical care is an expensive proposition regardless of whether a citizen or prisoner is in need of care. Tight budgets have pushed many jails and prisons to turn to prison profiteers to provide medical and mental health care to detainees and prisoners. When privatization is adopted, it is hailed as a means to save taxpayer dollars by setting a cap on the costs and moving liability to the private vendor.
The human suffering that medical privatization causes is highlighted only when there is a huge settlement or someone dies. As PLN has chronicled over nearly three decades, privatization is wrought with understaffing, a lack of basic treatment, and the avoidance of referrals to specialists or an outside hospital. For private vendors, every dollar saved is another dollar in profits. Lawsuits and the few cases that result in a settlement are just the cost of doing business.
An August 2019 undisclosed settlement in a lawsuit at Kentucky’s Grant County Detention Center (GCDC) is a perfect case study in all that is wrong with privatized prison medical care. In 2009, GCDC entered into an agreement with the Department of Justice (DOJ) to remedy unconstitutional conditions ...
The September 14, 2019, death of prisoner Albert Dorsey, 60, at the Hardeman County Correctional Facility (HCCF), a private prison operated by Tennessee-based CoreCivic, was initially called a suicide by the medical examiner. The prison’s report said he died alone in his cell that “no one else had access” to.
However, when his autopsy was released in January 2020 it revealed he had been killed. That makes him the fourth prisoner murdered at HCCF since October 2014.
The murders at HCCF, a minimum-to-medium security prison, account for 30% of the prisoner homicides reported in Tennessee over the past five years. Yet HCCF holds only 9% of the state’s prisoner population.
CoreCivic operates three other prisons in the state: Whiteville Correctional Facility, South Central Correctional Facility, and Trousdale-Turner Correctional Center. All are minimum-to-medium security except for South Central, which is minimum-toclose, meaning some prisoners there require “heightened supervision.”
Minimum-security prisoners require the least supervision while medium-security prisoners may have “minor disciplinary issues,” according to the Tennessee Department of Correction.
About 35% of Tennessee’s prisoners are incarcerated at one of the prisons operated by CoreCivic. Yet 63% of the state’s prison homicides occur there. When asked about the disparity ...
As previously reported in PLN, Florida-based GEO Group has had a litany of problems at the jail it operates for Liberty County, Texas. During a rocky 57-day stretch in mid-2019, there were prisoner escapes and suicides, discovery of contraband, guard theft of prisoners’ trust fund monies and maintenance problems that resulted in two failed inspections by the Texas Commission on Jail Standards (TCJS). That led fed up county commissioners to seek a capacity reduction in their own jail – which would require GEO group to relocate prisoners and detainees at its own expense – while also requesting county staff to draft a Request for Proposal (RFP) to replace the privately-owned jail operator.
“It is concerning to us,” admitted County Judge Jay Knight. “The county is not responsible for the day-to-day operations of the jail, it’s GEO alone, but by statute, (county Sheriff Bobby Rader) is over the jail.”
The county owns the jail facility and is responsible for its maintenance. But no county employees are onsite because GEO Group is responsible for jail operations – a distinction that apparently left each party believing the other was liable for the jail’s many maintenance issues, which remained unresolved ...
by Bill Barton
Roderick Douglas, 38, of Monroe, Louisiana, was sentenced to serve 60 months in prison for his role in a conspiracy with five other guards at Richwood Correctional Center (RCC) to violate the Constitutional prohibition against cruel and unusual punishment.
Douglas was sentenced June 5, 2019, by U.S. District Judge Terry A. Doughty of the Western District of Louisiana, for his actions in the October 2016 incident at RCC, a privately run federal prison near Monroe.
“Correctional officers deserve our respect for the jobs they do, but we must also hold them accountable when they willfully break the law and cover up the abuse of inmates,” U.S. Attorney David C. Joseph said. “The defendant in this case ignored his role as a caretaker for prisoners and violated the rights of those he was sworn to protect. My office is committed to upholding the laws of our land and the rights of all.”
Assistant Attorney General Eric Dreiband, who joined Joseph in making the announcement, said, “This blatant abuse of power will not be tolerated by the Department of Justice. Today’s sentencing demonstrates the commitment of the Civil Rights Division to vigorously prosecute those who inflict cruel and unusual ...
When former Florida Gov. Rick Scott took office in 2011, he pushed to privatize health care for Florida prisoners. He promised the move would save taxpayers millions of dollars and it did, at least until 2014. An audit ordered by the state legislature found that since those initial savings, privatization has cost many millions more.
“The contracts the [Florida Department of Corrections (FDOC)] entered into between 2012 and 2015, while they saved substantial amounts of money, resulted in substantial reductions in service,” said Karl Becker, senior vice president at CGL Companies and one of the audit’s authors. “Those savings you achieved during that time, you are probably paying for now” through lawsuits and increased costs.
FDOC was the subject of a class-action lawsuit that challenged the conditions of confinement, and the provision of medical care was a large feature of that suit. It took a while, but FDOC turned things around and had in place a very adequate medical system. Then Scott, the former CEO of Columbia/HCA, a giant health care company that was fined $1.7 billion for defrauding Medicare and Medicaid while Scott was in charge, became Florida’s governor. His agenda was to privatize as ...
A $252,000 settlement was reached in October 2019 in a lawsuit brought by the estate of a pretrial detainee who hanged himself at Pennsylvania’s Northampton County Prison (NCP).
Kyle A. Flyte, 21, was booked into NCP on March 5, 2017 and was placed on “Level II ...
In August 2016, just after an Obama administration decision to stop contracting with for-profit private prisons sent its stock price tumbling, GEO Group, Inc., the country’s largest private prison contractor, donated $100,000 to a super PAC aligned with then-presidential candidate Donald J. Trump.
Through a wholly owned subsidiary called GEO Corrections Holdings, Florida-based GEO Group, Inc. – whose $2.33 billion in 2018 revenues would have been threatened had Hillary Clinton won and continued Obama’s policy – then gave another $125,000 a week before the election to the Trump-aligned super PAC, known as “Rebuilding America Now” and chaired by Florida’s then-governor and current senator, Rick Scott. When Trump won, GEO Group stock quickly rose 21%, and it gave an additional $250,000 to his inauguration committee.
In February 2017, a month after Trump’s inauguration, then-Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced he was rescinding the Obama policy and expanding federal use of private prison contractors instead. Two months later, the administration awarded a $110 million, 10-year federal contract to GEO Group for construction and operation of a 1,000-bed facility in Texas to house undocumented detainees for Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), the $10 billion federal agency primarily tasked with implementing ...
by Scott Grammer
GEO Group, a private prison company, had hired Edelman, the world’s largest public relations firm, to improve its public image. But Edelman found itself with a PR problem of its own because of its ties to GEO. The company has contracts from the Trump administration to run immigrant detention centers where children were being forcibly separated from their parents and where members of Congress were not being allowed to visit.
Just two months after landing the deal, Edelman decided to end the contract with GEO Group on July 12, 2019, mainly because its own employees objected to it. Edelman feared that news of the contract would be leaked. Fishbowl, an Internet-based networking application for professionals, was used by Edelman employees to discuss the contract with GEO Group. According to the New York Times, one employee using Fishbowl wrote, “I am beyond disturbed.” Another said, “This is an inherently political, moral and values-based issue.”
Edelman is not the first or only firm to drop ties with GEO Group and its main competitor, CoreCivic, for fear of soiling its own image. JPMorgan Chase, Bank of America, BMP Paribas and Wells Fargo have stepped back from private prison ...
by Scott Grammer
Massachusetts Democratic Senator and current presidential candidate Elizabeth Warren introduced a plan last June that would essentially ban all government entities, at any level, from contracting with private prison companies.
Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont, another presidential candidate, also favors banning private prisons. If elected president, Sanders is considering issuing numerous executive actions to circumvent Congress, including one that would abolish private prisons, The Washington Post reported in January.
Warren’s bill has no chance of passing the current Congress. Still, Warren’s idea did not go over well with private prison companies. Politico reports that CoreCivic’s spokesperson Amanda Gilchrist said, “Our company helps keep communities safe, enrolls thousands of inmates in reentry programs that prepare them for life after prison and saves taxpayers millions. It’s unfortunate that politicians advocate against these benefits without themselves providing any solutions to the serious challenges our corrections and detention systems face.”
In January 2020 Warren took her stance farther in a letter to officials at the federal Bureau of Prisons (BOP) as well as those at Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) to express her concern over a series of moves into the private prison industry by high-level BOP and ICE employees during ...
by Kevin Bliss
Eagle Pass Correctional Facility (EPCF) have been investigated by the Maverick County, Texas Sheriff’s Office, the Idaho Department of Corrections (IDOC), Corizon Correctional Healthcare, and the GEO Group after 56-year-old Kim Sargent Taylor died in January 2019, of “natural causes.” Taylor had been to medical a week earlier complaining of a sore throat, followed by a rising temperature of 101.3, dizziness, and congested lungs. On the night of his death, guards were called because Taylor was pale, sweating, and incoherent. A later report stated that an inexperienced nurse responded supplying subpar medical assistance, which led to his transportation to the local hospital where he was pronounced dead.
EPCF, just southwest of San Antonio, Texas, is GEO Group’s newly acquired prison used to house IDOC’s prisoners, due to overpopulation. It began as a county jail and was later converted in 2018 to meet IDOC’s requirements to house some of their less violent prisoners. Since then, it has been surrounded in controversy because of its poor living conditions. Prisoners and their families have contacted the Idaho American Civil Liberties and the Idaho Press complaining about being locked down 24 hours a day, no access to the grievance procedure, inadequate ...