On May 1, 2020, the Texas Attorney General’s Office issued an opinion holding that all records related to a private prison contractor’s operations in the state were public information subject to the Texas Public Information Act (TPIA). The opinion bars an effort by the GEO Group to shield some of its Texas records from scrutiny by the Human Rights Defense Center (HRDC), the Florida-based nonprofit that publishes PLN and its sister publication, Criminal Legal News.
In January 2020, TPIA was amended with language to clarify that “public information” from a “government body” includes records from a “confinement facility operated under a contract with any division of the Texas Department of Criminal Justice” (Texas Government Code § 552.003(l)(A)(xii)).
HRDC filed its request February 6, 2020, seeking information on any payments totaling at least $1,000 that GEO Group had made since 2010 on claims or lawsuits related to its operation in the state, now totaling more than a dozen jails and prisons.
But GEO Group refused the to honor the request for records predating the 2020 TPIA amendment, arguing that before that time it was not considered a government body and so it did not have to comply with ...
A former CoreCivic nurse who worked at the private, for-profit company’s Bent County Jail in Colorado filed a federal lawsuit March 18, 2020, claiming sex discrimination by her supervisors after she filed complaints about the lack of medical care to prisoners.
CoreCivic workers at the Bent County Jail go by pseudonyms to protect their identity. When it was revealed that Danette Karapetian, who went by “DJ,” was using her old stage name from when she was a Hawaiian Tropic bikini model 25 years ago, her supervisor harassed her about it, her lawsuit filed in the U.S. District Court for the District of Colorado says. Within the next four months, nurse Supervisor Angie Turner reportedly set on a path to get Karapetian fired, and when that happened she sued.
Karapetian’s lawsuit raised three inter-related issues that she says were the bases for her termination: (1) “sex discrimination” by supervisors; (2) “retaliation for engaging [in] protected activity in opposition to sex discrimination”; and (3) “wrongful discharge in violation of public policy” after Karapetian filed complaints about poor medical care at the jail.
The first claim stemmed from Turner’s admission to coworkers that she was “angered and upset” about Karapetian’s ...
A GEO Group-run jail in Queens, New York City, saw coronavirus cases surge in the facility in May 2020.
The 222-bed medium/minimum-security federal Queens Detention Facility, New York City’s only privately run jail, reported 25 prisoners and 10 staff members tested positive for the virus, according to the Queens Daily Eagle in an April 15, 2020 report. It cited a “court-ordered report” issued April 15 by GEO Group.
Meanwhile, at the nearby state-run Queensboro Correctional Facility, Leonard Carter, 60, died on April 14 of complications of COVID-19 just six weeks from his scheduled release date. His passing renewed calls to release more prisoners from the jail.
“It is a horrifying and preventable tragedy that Leonard Carter passed away from COVID-19 a mere six weeks from his release date and having been already granted parole,” said Katie Schaffer, director of advocacy and organizing at the Center for Community Alternatives. “For those within a year of release and those — like Mr. Carter — who have already been granted parole, there is no legitimate argument for making people complete these sentences, only a hunger for maximum punishment that will increase the death toll of this pandemic.”
GEO Group, which reported $2.48 billion in revenue last year, ...
by David M. Reutter
Detainees at CoreCivic’s Otay Mesa Detention Center (OMDC) in California were enthusiastic when told they would be issued face masks to protect themselves from COVID-19. The mood changed quickly when employees conditioned that issuance on the signing of a contract that held CoreCivic “harmless” from wearing the mask.
OMDC holds immigration detainees for the Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and criminal defendants for the U.S. Marshals Service. As of April 11, 2020, at least 16 detainees at the facility had tested positive for COVID-19. One of those was a woman in “A” pod, which holds immigration detainees.
The women in that pod had been anxious to protect themselves, and made handmade face masks with rubber bands, panty-liners, and cut-up T-shirts. The detainees complained they lacked personal protective equipment and soap to wash their hands, so when they learned they were being issued facemasks, it was seen as good news.
Then, however, CoreCivic’s profitability took precedence over protecting the detainees from a deadly disease. Prior to passing out the masks, the unit manager handed out contracts written in English, telling the women they must sign before they were issued a mask.
The document included a section saying ...
by Anthony W. Accurso
In response to a motion filed by the ACLU, a judge in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of California unsealed documents in June 2019 related to the failures of San Diego County Sheriff’s Department and its mental health provider, Correctional Physicians Medical Group (CPMG).
San Diego County operates seven jails, which regularly hold around 5,200 prisoners, about one-third of whom are on some form of psychotropic medication to manage a serious condition. This makes the jail system the largest provider of mental health services in the region. “There’s something wrong with that,” said Sheriff Bill Gore in a 2017 interview. “That shouldn’t be the case.”
The Sheriff’s Department awarded a five-year contract worth $21 million to CPMG, but canceled it in January 2017 after just 27 months. The company had been formed by Steven Mannis, an emergency room doctor who later admitted in a deposition that he had virtually no experience in psychiatry.
According to court filings, “No one was in charge of training” at CPMG. “The only alleged ‘training’ occurred at ‘Journal Club,’” a voluntary quarterly performance review for CPMG providers.
The unsealed documents relate to the death of Rubin Nunez in ...
In November 2019, the family of a New Mexico prisoner who committed suicide while incarcerated at a privately operated prison agreed to a $500,000 settlement against the psychiatrist, Andrew Kowalkowski, who subcontracted with Corizon. Earlier in 2019, the family entered into confidential settlements with the two other defendants in the lawsuit — GEO Group and Corizon.
Michael Mattis, 24, pleaded no contest to residential burglary and entered the New Mexico Department of Corrections (DOC) in 2014. He had no prior criminal history but a known history of mental illness.
After he arrived at the Northeastern New Mexico Detention Facility near Clayton, he was diagnosed with bipolar disorder, schizophrenia and psychotic disorder. According to court documents, psychiatrist Dr. Andrew Kowalkowski had a single video interaction with Mattis, then directed prison staff to closely monitor him, but prescribed him to be taken off of any form of medication.
Later that month, Mattis was transferred to the Guadalupe County Correctional Facility in Santa Rosa. There, prison staff put Mattis in a cell behind a staircase where he could not be closely monitored. Over the ensuing months, his mental health deteriorated.
Kowalkowski scheduled two additional video sessions, but Mattis refused to ...
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 ...