by Chad Marks
Walking 200 feet to the chow hall was excruciating, said 35-year-old Arizona prisoner Waylon Collingwood. Held at ASPC-Lewis, he had already been to the medical department several times in July 2019 to seek help for his symptoms, which also included vomiting and nausea, only to be wrongly diagnosed. A nurse thought Collingwood had pneumonia. She gave him a Z-pack – antibiotics commonly used for pink-eye and strep throat – and sent him back to his housing unit.
A month later Collingwood was at an outside hospital, finding out why walking to the chow hall had been so painful. He did not have pneumonia but rather Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus, or MRSA. The nurse, who worked for prison medical provider Corizon, had been wrong – leaving Collingwood with a heavy price to pay. He was also misdiagnosed by Corizon staff with Valley Fever and tuberculosis before going to the hospital.
MRSA had infected his lungs and the valves of his heart, and he needed open heart surgery to replace his tricuspid valve. His heart stopped beating the day after surgery, but a nurse at the Abrazo West Campus Hospital was able to save him. Collingwood learned that he would ...
by Scott Grammer
Robert J. “Bob” Dennis, CEO of Genesco, a Nashville shoe and boot retailer, was first appointed to the board of directors of CoreCivic, the private prison company formerly known as Corrections Corporation of America, in February 2013. However, in May 2019 his time on the board was up, according to investors holding more than 49.9 million shares of CoreCivic stock, who voted to deny Dennis another term. He was required to tender his resignation.
The company told the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) that it believed Dennis’ failure to survive the retention vote “was due to his service as the Chief Executive Officer and director of a publicly traded company, his service on the Board and his service on the board of directors of one additional publicly traded company, which resulted in a concern among shareholders holding a significant number of shares of [CoreCivic’s] common stock.”
Dennis also serves on the board of directors of Hospital Corporation of America (HCA), as well as the boards of United Way of Metropolitan Nashville, Leadership Nashville and Vanderbilt University’s Owen Graduate School of Management.
One news report suggested that investment firms Blackrock and Vanguard Group, which together hold almost ...
by Douglas Ankney
In November 2019, an employee of private food service provider Aramark Correctional Services at Indiana’s Correctional Industrial Facility in Pendleton was captured on surveillance video delivering a package and $300 in cash to a prisoner. Kevin Lake, 26, admitted to smuggling the contraband he had received from a woman at a Wendy’s restaurant, as well as passing money to other prisoners that he obtained through an app on his cell phone. He was charged with felony drug trafficking.
On September 20, 2019, Aurelia Diaz Brin, 54, an Aramark employee at the Whatcom County jail in Washington, was arrested and booked into the jail for allegedly smuggling drugs, including heroin and Suboxone, into the facility. The Sheriff’s Office said it was reviewing the company’s performance and would recommend that the county contract with a different food service vendor.
The arrests of Lake and Brin were among the latest in a series of embarrassing incidents involving Aramark, which is the 27th-largest employer among Fortune 500 companies, with $14 billion in 2018 revenue from food service contracts with prisons and jails, universities, sporting arenas and other venues. The firm has been the subject of protests from New ...
by Douglas Ankney
The New Mexico Court of Appeals held that third-party settlement agreements, resulting from medical care provided by Corizon Health under a contract with the state, are public documents subject to disclosure under the Inspection of Public Records Act (IPRA).
In 2016, the New Mexico Foundation for Open ...
by David M. Reutter
On September 25, 2019, Pennsylvania’s Delaware County Council abolished its Board of Prison Inspectors (BPI) and replaced it with a Jail Oversight Board (JOB), after problems occurred at the privately operated Delaware County Prison, formerly known as the George W. Hill Correctional Facility. PLN has previously reported on problems at the jail. [See: PLN, Nov. 2018, p.36; Jan. 2016, p.57].
Over a five-week period in the summer of 2019, the facility erupted in new crises:
• On July 31, a prisoner committed suicide;
• On August 5, a sergeant was beaten with handcuffs and required hospitalization;
• On August 24, there were two separate overdoses by prisoners in the jail’s work release program;
• On August 26, several prisoners beat another prisoner with a plastic tray, then threw trays at a nurse and guard, who were trapped in the cellblock until backup arrived; and
• On September 4, there was a “full blown riot” at the facility that was quelled after a Community Emergency Response Team armed with pepper balls managed to subdue 26 prisoners.
“I’ve been there so long and I said, ‘It’s not if it’s going to happen, it’s when,’ because ...
by Dale Chappell
A federal judge has granted class-action status in a federal lawsuit filed against GEO Group, alleging the private, for-profit company forced immigration detainees to work in order to avoid punishment.
The ruling by Judge Jesus G. Bernal of the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California was a serious blow to the company's profits, says Northeastern University political science professor Jacqueline Stevens. She estimated that the savings by using detainee labor accounted for about 25 percent of GEO's net profits, based on financial disclosures made by the company in public records.
The lawsuit was filed by Raul Novoa, an immigration detainee being held at an Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) detention facility in Adelanto, California. GEO has a contract to run the facility, one of more than a dozen such facilities it operates across the country.
Novoa claimed that he and the approximately 2,000 detainees at the facility were forced to work under the threat of punishment and deprivation of basic needs, such as adequate food, hygiene supplies, and clothing.
The lawsuit exposed emails from GEO employees saying that detainees are required to work to help maintain the facility, work that GEO employees are supposed ...
by Dale Chappell
Allegheny County, Pennsylvania has settled a lawsuit over lack of adequate care by Corizon Health, the medical contractor at the county’s jail, for failing to feed a prisoner, which led him to go into cardiac arrest, according to court records.
The prisoner, Christopher Wallace, was arrested on February 25, 2015 and immediately taken to a hospital due to his poor health caused by his inability to obtain feeding tubes after his Medicaid benefits were suspended. Wallace had his esophagus severed in a prior shooting, and is unable to eat anything by mouth.
He was treated at the hospital and then sent to the jail with instructions to feed him through his feeding tube five times a day. On March 2, 2015, Wallace was rushed back to the hospital after losing consciousness. He was diagnosed with “starvation.” Once treated, he was returned to the jail a week later with the same instructions to feed him five times a day.
Wallace was again transported to the hospital less than two weeks later, this time after his heart stopped. Records indicated that he was fed even fewer times than when he was returned to the jail previously, sometimes without any ...
by Ed Lyon
On September 17, 2019, a federal judge denied several summary judgment claims urged by CoreCivic while granting one.
Federal prisoner Gerardo Cruz-Sanchez entered the Otay Mesa Detention Center (OMDC) in San Diego, California, operated by private prison corporation CoreCivic on February 4, 2016.
He was not given a medical exam until February 11. He began seeking medical help on February 12 and five more times, showing successively worse symptoms with each request. He was not seen by a medical doctor until February 26 and was coughing up blood. Cruz-Sanchez was then hospitalized. He died from pneumonia three days later.
On a third amended civil rights suit with a pendant state Bane Act claim by the estate of Cruz-Sanchez, CoreCivic sought summary judgment to dismiss the pendant claim, duty to provide health care, duty to train jailers, the legal jailor-jailee relationship and the ability of Cruz-Sanchez’s estate to seek punitive damages.
A Bane Act claim requires coercion on the defendant’s part. Judge Battaglia held the coercion element does not have to be independent of the alleged constitutional violation like, as in this case, requests for medical help. A guard supposedly denied Cruz-Sanchez access to medical care until Cruz-Sanchez’s ...
by Matt Clarke
In August 2019, thanks to the efforts of newly elected Denver, Colorado councilwoman Candi CdeBaca, the city council declined to renew contracts worth a total of $10.6 million with GEO Group and CoreCivic (formerly Corrections Corporation of America) to operate six halfway houses. With a total of 517 beds, the halfway houses represented over 70 percent of the 748 total beds available in Denver.
CdeBaca was sworn in to office in July 2019 and soon noticed a $3.89 million contract with Community Education Centers, Inc. docketed on the city council’s consent agenda. When she learned that company was a subsidiary of the GEO Group, she recognized it was the same firm operating a controversial Aurora, Colorado facility housing detainees for Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). She requested that the contract be pulled off the consent agenda and heard for public comment.
Over time, the GEO Group and CoreCivic have bought six of the 10 halfway houses in Denver, where former prisoners live and obtain jobs while they transition into the community or await parole. The remaining halfway houses are operated by locally owned Liberty House and the University of Colorado.
“We’ve watched these large entities gobble up ...
by Scott Grammer
Monte Whitehead was incarcerated at the Otero County Prison Facility in New Mexico, operated by for-profit contractor Management & Training Corp. (MTC). He filed suit in state court raising various claims under the federal constitution and New Mexico Tort Claims Act, alleging in part “that certain defendants limited his access to information which prevented him from writing opinion articles, engaging in religious reading, and staying current with developments in the veterinary profession.”
Whitehead said he had requested books on religion and veterinary medicine, but the defendants denied his requests because the books were hardback. The defendants also denied his requests for books from non-approved vendors, newspaper articles sent to him by mail, and Internet access. Additionally, he claimed that he was “transferred for bringing this suit” – a common retaliatory act by prison officials.
The case was removed to federal court, where the district court dismissed the federal claims, declined to exercise jurisdiction over the state claims and remanded those claims back to state court. Whitehead appealed and the Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit granted limited relief in an April 2, 2019 unpublished ruling.
Specifically, the appellate court reversed and remanded the district court’s denial ...