by Christopher Zoukis
Several state prison systems are facing a dilemma: too many prisoners and not enough beds. An increasingly popular solution to this problem is to transfer prisoners to facilities in other states, sometimes thousands of miles away, where there is surplus bed space available. That extra space is typically found in private, for-profit prisons.
In February 2018, Idaho announced the transfer of 250 men from medium- and high-security state prisons to the Karnes County Correctional Center in Texas. The 550-bed facility is operated by private prison firm GEO Group. Denise Tyler, founder of the Idaho Inmate Family Support Group, said her organization has received dozens of letters from prisoners protesting the move.
“They feel like they’re being punished and their overall morale has dropped because they have been ripped away from their family and support system,” Tyler stated.
According to the Idaho Department of Correction (DOC), the prisoners will remain at the Texas facility until the state executes a long-term contract to house up to 1,000 prisoners in out-of-state facilities. Henry Atencio, director of the DOC, said his department is out of better options.
“We wish we didn’t have to send inmates out of state; we ...
by Christopher Zoukis
In December 2017, a federal judge denied a motion by GEO Group, the private operator of the Northwest Detention Center (NWDC) in Tacoma, Washington, to dismiss a lawsuit filed by the state’s Attorney General, Bob Ferguson. The suit alleges that GEO violated the state’s minimum wage law by paying NWDC detainees just $1.00 per day for their labor at the facility. Washington’s minimum wage is currently $11.50 per hour.
GEO Group, based in Boca Raton, Florida, provides detention services at NWDC under contract with Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). The company had requested that the court either add ICE as a co-defendant or dismiss the case. The court rejected both options.
“This is an important step toward holding this multibillion dollar company accountable for exploiting its detainee workers in Washington by not following our minimum wage laws,” Ferguson stated.
With 141 prisons and detention centers in operation worldwide, GEO’s gross revenue exceeded $2.26 billion in 2017. It has owned the 1,575-bed NWDC since 2005, operating it for ICE under a contract valued at $57 million annually. The facility houses immigrant detainees awaiting resolution of deportation cases, which are civil rather than criminal ...
by Dale Chappell
On July 30, 2018, the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Florida denied a motion for judgment on the pleadings filed by Prisoner Transportation Services, LLC (PTS) and its subsidiary, U.S. Corrections, LLC (USC), in a lawsuit over inhumane conditions during the transport of more than 1,000 prisoners.
When Broward County, Florida filed charges against Jeffrey E. Groover, a federal prisoner housed at FCI Butner in North Carolina, the county contracted with USC to pick him up and extradite him to face the charges. During the 52-hour road trip, Groover was forced to sit in a “dog cage” as the van driver called it, which measured just 34 inches wide by 42 inches high. There was no air-conditioning and only one small vent. The van rarely stopped for breaks and Groover was allowed just one cup of water and some food every eight hours. After 24 hours into the trip, Groover suffered delusions and vomited. The driver gave him an extra cup of water. Due to the extreme heat, Groover had a heat stroke.
He filed a pro se lawsuit under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 in federal court against Broward ...
by Ed Lyon
Since it first contracted out prisoner medical care to a private company in 2004, the New Mexico Corrections Department (DOC) has been named along with its contractors in over 220 lawsuits filed by prisoners or their estates.
In 2007, the DOC switched from Wexford Health Sources, based in a suburb of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, to Corizon Health, located in Brentwood, Tennessee. Corizon is the nation’s largest private prison and jail health care provider.
By 2016, New Mexico prisoners had filed 150 lawsuits over inadequate care by Corizon and the DOC’s failure to audit the company, which had been awarded another four-year, $151 million contract in 2012. [See: PLN, Sept. 2017, p.32].
The DOC was able to produce records for just 20 of nearly 160 audits it should have completed between 2012 and 2015.
Dr. Bianca McDermott, Corizon’s chief of behavioral health in New Mexico, filed a Fraud-Against-the-Taxpayers Act complaint in 2013, citing the company’s low staffing levels and the DOC’s failure to do anything about them. Her complaint was investigated by then-Attorney General Gary King, but no charges were filed. Instead, McDermott claims she was “retaliated against, harassed, and ultimately terminated.” She filed a whistle-blower suit ...
A $7 million settlement was reached in the suicide death of a mentally ill prisoner at the George W. Hill Correctional Facility (GWHCF) in Thornton, Pennsylvania, operated at the time by private prison company Community Education Centers.
When she was in her late twenties, Janene Wallace was diagnosed with mental ...
In early 2017, Pennsylvania’s Department of Corrections (PDOC) entered into an “innovative” agreement with private food service vendor Aramark. State officials claimed the $154 million contract would save taxpayers an estimated $16.6 million over its three-year term.
The contract is unique in that Aramark will not control staffing, meal service or menus in Pennsylvania’s 26 prisons. Instead the company shall provide food procurement, and use its purchasing power and technology to improve food service operations.
While the prison system will maintain operational control of its kitchens, Aramark will manage food purchasing, logistics and inventory. The company said it was “excited about this innovative public-private partnership that will help the DOC better manage quality and nutrition while delivering millions of dollars in savings to the taxpayers of the Commonwealth,” said Karen Cultes, an Aramark spokesperson.
The contract was somewhat surprising in light of Aramark’s history of overbilling when it provided the PDOC’s food service operations over a decade ago. [See: PLN, June 2006, p.25]. It was also disappointing to local food suppliers and dairies that previously had contracts with the prison system.
“A lot of companies in Pennsylvania relied on that,” said John Friedmann, president of Karetas ...
by David Reutter and R. Bailey
Correct Care Solutions, a for-profit company that provides medical services at correctional facilities, contested the release of documents concerning the death of Dino Vann Nixon at the Forsyth County Jail (FCJ) in North Carolina.
Upon being booked into FCJ on drug trafficking charges on ...
by Jimmy Jenkins, KJZZ.org
The Arizona Department of Corrections contracts with privately owned correctional health care company Corizon Health to oversee all medical, mental and dental care at 10 state prisons. However, that care has come under scrutiny in federal court.
In 2015, prisoners settled a lawsuit with Arizona over poor health care conditions in state prisons. More than two years later, Arizona and its provider have failed to meet the more than 100 stipulations agreed to in the settlement and a federal judge is threatening to fine the state millions of dollars. [See note at the end of this article; the district court imposed $1.4 million in fines in June 2018 as part of a contempt ruling]. Prisoners have testified in the settlement process to long wait times for medicine, delayed chronic disease care and a lack of access to specialists. The voices in this series confirm those allegations and more, recounting their experiences with the Arizona prison health care system.
Lucinda Jordan hadn’t talked to her father, Walter Jordan, for several years. He was serving time in an Arizona prison and they had lost touch. Then, one day in August 2017, the phone rang.
Overcrowding in Kentucky’s corrections system has spurred renewed interest in private prisons. Despite abandoning privately-operated prisons five years ago due to a number of problems, including sexual abuse of female prisoners by private prison guards, Kentucky officials have returned to privatization to relieve the state’s overcrowded prisons.
“This is simply a move we are forced to make,” said Kentucky Justice Secretary John Tilley. “We hope this is a release valve.”
The state’s prison population exploded from 22,089 in November 2015 to 24,367 as of February 2018. The opioid epidemic has been blamed for the increase.
Kentucky turned to CoreCivic, formerly Corrections Corporation of America, for more prison beds. The company owns facilities in Lee, Floyd and Marion counties.
At one time, Kentucky housed prisoners at all three facilities; it pulled out of Lee County in 2010, Floyd County in 2012 and Marion County in 2013.
Governor Steve Beshear had ordered female prisoners removed from the CoreCivic-operated Otter Creek Correctional Center in 2010 following reports that guards were sexually abusing prisoners. [See: PLN, Sept. 2011, p.16; Oct. 2009, p.40]. The Lee Adjustment Center was the site of a 2004 riot.
For state officials, using the ...
by Christopher Zoukis
GEO Group, one of the nation’s largest for-profit prison companies, donated $225,000 to the pro-Trump Super PAC Rebuilding America Now during the 2016 election cycle. Within a few months after President Trump’s inauguration, in April 2017, GEO was awarded a $110 million federal contract to build a 1,000-bed immigration detention facility.
The Campaign Legal Center, a non-partisan public interest watchdog organization that monitors elections for violations of the Federal Election Campaign Act (FECA), recognized the particular stench that accompanies improper political influence. So the group filed a complaint with the Federal Election Commission (FEC), alleging GEO Group had violated the FECA by making donations to the PAC while holding federal contracts – which is prohibited. That was on November 1, 2016. Since then the FEC has utterly failed to act.
Therefore, on January 10, 2018, CLC filed suit against the FEC in federal court. The complaint seeks to require the agency to do its job, which is to enforce the FECA.
CLC’s lawsuit over GEO Group’s PAC donation is straightforward. Federal law prohibits a federal contractor, such as GEO, from “directly or indirectly ... mak[ing] any contribution of money or other thing of value ... to ...