by Steve Horn
Louisiana-based Emerald Correctional Management, also known as Emerald Corrections, was once among the major movers and shakers in the private prison industry. Today it’s a figment of the past.
Emerald was notorious for atrocious conditions in its detention facilities, as documented in a recent investigative piece co-published by Newsweek and the California-based publication Capital and Main. Incidents at the company’s prisons and jails included the medical-related deaths of immigrant detainees Igor Zyazin at the San Luis Regional Detention Facility in Arizona and Olubunmi Joshua at the Rolling Plains Detention Center in Texas; the “2016 suicide of a 77-year-old county inmate, Kennie Moore, who hanged himself using his boxer shorts as a noose” at Rolling Plains; and a lawsuit filed by Emerald employees who were “forced to work off the clock and weren’t paid for overtime.” The suit was settled out of court.
In 2016, as one of Emerald’s last acts during the two decades it was in business, the company opened the $60 million Prairieland Detention Center. Located in Alvarado, Texas, the 700-bed facility houses detainees for Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), though technically the five-year contract is with the City of Alvarado. The center was ...
by Matt Clarke
In 2015, Texas converted its outpatient program for civilly committed sex offenders into a “tiered” treatment program, in which participants start out in a “total confinement facility” at twice the cost of the original program. The state awarded Correct Care Solutions a $24 million contract to provide housing and treatment at the Texas Civil Commitment Center (TCCC) in Littlefield, formerly a failed private prison known as the Bill Clayton Detention Facility.
Correct Care had just acquired GEO Care, a subsidiary of the GEO Group – a for-profit prison firm whose 2009 abandonment of the Littlefield facility had almost forced the city into default on its bonds. [See: PLN, Oct. 2013, p.45]. GEO Care had a poor reputation, having been sued multiple times for providing inadequate health care. The company was known for having cooked alive a Florida psychiatric hospital patient who was left in a scalding hot bath, and for providing such abysmal care at a Texas immigration detention center that it sparked a riot.
The state’s contract with Correct Care required it to hire about 100 employees to provide treatment and housing for 277 civilly committed sex offenders at TCCC, which it rented from Littlefield ...
by Matthew Clarke
From 2014 through July 2018, at least 52 lawsuits were filed in federal court against Correct Care Solutions (CCS) – a private medical contractor based in Nashville, Tennessee – alleging failure to provide adequate medical care to prisoners in Colorado jails. Six of the cases involved fatalities ...
As dawn broke on August 6, 2018, the light shone on a group of about two dozen protesters who had blockaded the main entrance to the Nashville, Tennessee headquarters of CoreCivic (formerly Corrections Corporation of America), the nation’s largest for-profit prison firm. Both entrances to the building’s parking garage were blocked, too. The peaceful demonstration continued for over eight hours and resulted in a response from nearly 70 Metro-Nashville police officers and the arrests of 19 participants on misdemeanor trespassing charges.
A small group of protesters joined hands through sections of pipe and laid down in front of one parking garage entrance, while the second entrance was blocked by demonstrators who had chained their hands into concrete-filled 55-gallon drums painted with slogans denouncing CoreCivic’s business practices. In a dramatic display at the main entrance to the company’s headquarters, protesters erected a 30-foot-tall tripod made of wooden logs, from which protester Julie Henry dangled in a sling.
A smaller group of community members and activists marched nearby holding signs and singing chants in solidarity with the demonstrators blockading the building.
The intent of the protest, as stated on a large banner hung during the event, was to place CoreCivic’s corporate headquarters ...
by Matt Clarke
In August 2017, Oklahoma state prisoners and the non-profit All In One Project filed a federal civil rights suit arguing political contributions made by private prison firms to state officials led to contracts with those companies that included a 98 percent occupancy rate at private prisons. The contracts allegedly caused Oklahoma to have a very low (10 percent) parole grant rate and unconstitutional conditions of confinement in its prisons, such as overcrowding and excessive levels of violence.
According to court documents, the All In One Project’s “membership consists of individuals impacted by the criminal justice system, including, among others, individuals serving life sentences, family members of these individuals, ‘lifers groups’ made up of individuals serving life sentences at various Oklahoma prisons, and individuals serving the parole terms equivalent to life sentences.”
The lawsuit accused Oklahoma Governor Mary Fallin, high-ranking government officials and legislative leaders of engaging in an “incarceration-for-profit scheme,” noting they received over $175,000 in campaign contributions from CoreCivic during the previous election cycle alone. The company was previously known as Corrections Corporation of America.
Those and similar donations by private prison firm GEO Group were allegedly in exchange for contracts guaranteeing a ...
by Steve Horn
In the realm of prisons and jails, many companies have positioned themselves to profit from mass incarceration.
Few have done so in the area of prisoner communications with as much vigor as JPay, whose business model centers around charging prisoners fees to communicate with the outside world via phone calls, video calling and e-messaging. The company also has a substantial share of the prison money transfer market.
But JPay, which has myriad contracts with jails and state prison systems, has come under scrutiny over a vulnerability in its media content ordering system that occurred in June and July 2018 at several facilities run by the Idaho Department of Correction.
Prison Legal News obtained documents via a public records request concerning the incident, which indicate that a prisoner tipped off state officials. Though his name was redacted, one document shows the prisoner contacted prison staff through a confidential informant line, explaining how the JPay vulnerability was being exploited by other prisoners.
The informant had originally reached out to JPay on June 28 via the company’s internal support system, letting them know prisoners were using a “glitch” to obtain hundreds of dollars worth of credits to purchase music, games ...
by Derek Gilna
A federal class-action suit filed on April 17, 2018 in the Middle District of Georgia accuses private prison behemoth CoreCivic – formerly Corrections Corporation of America – of exploiting immigrant detainees who perform work in the company’s ICE detention facilities, specifically at the Stewart Detention Center in central Georgia.
The complaint alleges violations of state and federal labor laws. According to one of the attorneys representing the proposed class, Azadeh Shahshahani, legal director for Project South, “CoreCivic is exploiting the labor of detained immigrants to enrich itself. It must be stopped.”
CoreCivic, the largest private prison operator in the U.S., has been the target of numerous lawsuits in states where it maintains detention facilities for inadequate medical treatment and employee misconduct, and has been fined millions of dollars by various government agencies for contract violations. Prison Legal News has extensively covered these various scandals, which include the common threads of cutting corners and exploiting prisoners in order to increase profits.
Although legal precedent does not uniformly restrict corrections officials from compelling healthy prisoners to work, the complaint notes that the legal status of detained immigrants is different: “Immigration violations are civil violations, and immigration detention ...
by Monte McCoin
On May 8, 2018, the City Council in Tucson, Arizona passed a historic resolution by unanimous vote that prohibits “contracting with private, for-profit prison companies like GEO Group or CoreCivic (formerly CCA) for jail operations.” City Councilmember Regina Romero, who spearheaded the passage of the resolution alongside Tucson Vice Mayor Paul Cunningham, noted that “Profit should never be motivation for our justice system.”
The Tucson resolution closely followed a similar measure passed in December 2017 by the Board of Supervisors in Pima County, Arizona, and appears to follow a growing trend among municipalities to reject correctional privatization.
King County, Washington was one of the first jurisdictions to ban privately-operated facilities; the county passed legislation in August 2017 that prohibits contracts between the county and private prison firms to house either adult or juvenile detainees. [See: PLN, Sept. 2017, p.29]. And in April 2018, the Indianapolis City-County Council proactively prohibited privatization of the city’s yet-to-open new criminal justice center and jail with an ordinance that also dissolves the city’s current contract with CoreCivic when the old jail closes.
“No function of our government is more serious than when it deprives people of liberty,” said ...
by Matthew Clarke
Over a decade ago, with the promise of cost savings as well as stable jobs for the community, local governments in Texas agreed to issue bonds to finance the construction of prisons and jails operated by for-profit companies. But when state and federal authorities stopped sending enough prisoners for the facilities to break even, the companies pulled out of their deals, leaving cities and counties with empty jails and debt payments on the bonds sold to finance them.
In 2007, Burnett County, Texas issued $40 million in municipal bonds to build a new jail. A private operator, Louisiana-based LaSalle Southwest Corrections, was awarded a contract to operate the facility for the Texas Department of Criminal Justice (TDCJ), which used it to house prisoners enrolled in a drug treatment program. LaSalle also signed a deal with the U.S. Marshals Service to hold some of its prisoners.
But the company lost $4 million on the deal. LaSalle had also been cited for failure to provide adequate healthcare in 2009, and for failing a security review in 2014. It pulled out in 2014, just five years after the facility opened, and the TDCJ sent its prisoners elsewhere. But the ...
by Matthew Clarke
The family of a prisoner who died at the Bi-State Jail in Texarkana has filed a federal civil rights suit alleging his death resulted from inadequate medical care.
The jail is unique in that it straddles the border of Texas and Arkansas in a city that spreads out over four counties in two states. The 164-bed facility, opened in 1985, is run by a for-profit company, LaSalle Corrections, and used by law enforcement agencies in both Texas and Arkansas.
On July 19, 2015, Michael Sabbie, 35, was arrested on suspicion of verbal assault, a Class C misdemeanor, in Texarkana, Arkansas after he had an argument with his wife during which he allegedly threatened her. He was booked into the jail.
During the intake process, Sabbie told a nurse he had heart trouble, diabetes, mental illness, a communicable disease, asthma and hypertension, and reported he had suffered from congestive heart failure. He also complained of shortness of breath and told the nurse he had pneumonia prior to his arrest. [See: PLN, Dec. 2016, p.43].
Sabbie’s complaints about shortness of breath continued over the next two days. He was seen twice by nurses, but sent away without treatment ...