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 ...
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 ...
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 ...
by Matt Clarke
Although the website of the Congressional Black Caucus states that banning private prisons is part of its agenda during the current congressional session, the legally separate but affiliated Congressional Black Caucus Institute (CBCI) has accepted donations from CoreCivic, formerly Corrections Corporation of America, and the Institute’s 21st Century Council lists lobbyists for private prison firms as “platinum members.”
For-profit prison companies “are among the most committed entities in opposition to transforming our criminal justice system,” said Scott Roberts, senior director of Criminal Justice Campaigns at the racial justice organization Color of Change, which previously pressured then-presidential candidate Hillary Clinton and the Congressional Black Caucus’s political action committee to stop taking donations from private prison operators.
“They are the most invested in maintaining the status quo that’s got us to being a country that is leading in the history of the world in incarcerating its own people,” Roberts stated in an August 2019 article, adding, “It’s incredibly disappointing to know that any of the entities affiliated with the Congressional Black Caucus continue to take money from CoreCivic or any other private prison company, so there’s just no excuse for it. It’s unacceptable.”
In a ...
by David M. Reutter
The Arkansas Ethics Commission (AEC) issued letters of caution to four companies that provide corrections-related services, for failing to report contributions to the Arkansas Sheriffs’ Association.
The companies, Tech Friends, Inc., City Tele Coin Co., Justice Solutions and Correct Solutions, LLC, agreed with the AEC’s August 16, 2019 finding that they violated Arkansas law by failing to register as lobbyists and neglecting to report lobbying expenses. The AEC began looking into the matter after it received a complaint from Charles Niell, chief executive officer of Tiger Correctional Services, who received a letter of caution for similar violations in 2018.
The AEC found that Tech Friends, which provides financial and communication services to jails, co-sponsored a breakfast during the Arkansas Sheriffs’ Association’s winter conference in January 2019. It also co-sponsored the association’s Ronnie Baldwin Memorial Trout Tournament in 2017 and 2018.
City Tele Coin bought fried chicken for over 30 sheriffs during the January 2019 conference, and co-sponsored a lunch. It also co-sponsored the 2018 trout tournament and paid for meals at Riverfront Steakhouse.
Justice Solutions, a jail software company, co-sponsored the 2018 trout tournament and lunch and breakfast at the January conference. It also co-sponsored an ...
by Caroline Isaacs, Program Director, AFSC
In 1998, I was a budding anti-prison activist, volunteering for the American Friends Service Committee in Arizona (AFSC-AZ). I was fortunate enough to attend the very first Critical Resistance gathering in Oakland and learn that I was actually part of a movement – a vibrant, fierce and committed group of people who, like me, saw the Prison Industrial Complex as one of the most dangerous threats to our communities. It was an energizing experience that solidified my commitment to this work.
Imagine my dismay, then, at receiving an email from Critical Resistance nearly 20 years later characterizing my work to combat private prisons as un-strategic and even as undermining the larger effort to end mass incarceration.
The critique, primarily leveled at prison divestment campaigns, was articulated by Ruthie Gilmore in her 2015 piece, “The Worrying State of the Anti-Prison Movement,” and was more recently espoused by John Pfaff in his book Locked In: The True Causes of Mass Incarceration and How to Achieve Real Reform.
The argument goes something like this: Because for-profit prison companies only hold about 8.5 percent of the nation’s state and federal prisoners, this proves that the profit ...
by Kevin Bliss
Former warden Jody Bradley depended on gang leaders at a privately-run Mississippi prison to maintain control of the facility.
That was one finding of a December 2018 internal audit by Management & Training Corporation (MTC) at the Wilkinson County Correctional Facility (WCCF), which the company operates for the Mississippi Department of Corrections. Calling Bradley’s management ineffective, the audit accused him of ceding power and control to prisoners, leading to coercion and corruption of staff members.
Located near the Louisiana border in Woodville, WCCF houses 900 offenders, most of whom are classified maximum security, including former residents of a high-risk housing unit at the State Penitentiary in Parchman that closed in 2010. Some 80 percent of prisoners at the MTC-run facility are gang-affiliated.
A 2016 study of 39 prisons across the country by sociologist David Pyrooz with the University of Colorado at Boulder found that gang-related homicides nationwide averaged just two per year for every 100,000 prisoners. But WCCF averaged two per year with just under 1,000 prisoners – a homicide rate twice as high as Detroit’s.
Since February 2017, WCCF – which prisoners called “the Killing Field” in a 2014 article published by the Jackson ...
by Douglas Ankney
On March 29, 2019, the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Indiana denied in part a motion filed by private prison company The GEO Group, seeking to dismiss a class-action suit filed on behalf of prisoners in the Mental Health Unit (MHU) at the New Castle Correctional Facility (NCCF).
GEO is paid more than $100 million to operate NCCF. In the MHU, over 100 mentally ill prisoners are locked in their cells 20 hours a day and forced to labor by cleaning, completing reports or assisting other prisoners. When not in their cells they are restrained with handcuffs and shackles.
Plaintiff class representatives Damarcus Figgs and David Corbin raised a number of claims, including: 1) Peonage in violation of the Trafficking Victims Protection Act (TVPA); 2) Forced labor in violation of the TVPA; 3) Harboring for labor in violation of the TVPA; 4) Cruel and unusual punishment; 5) Denial of equal protection; 6) Violations of the Rehabilitation Act and the Americans with Disabilities Act; 7) False imprisonment; 8) Confinement; 9) Unjust enrichment; and 10) Negligence.
The district court dismissed all claims except numbers 2, 3 and 9.
In ruling on ...
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 ...