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Arkansas Legislature
Apr 4, 2022 nwaonline.com
A proposed regional jail facility in southeast Arkansas that would be operated by a private company and would house up to 500 state inmates hasn't broken ground yet.
In December 2019, Arkansas' Legislative Council signed off on an $8.1 million-a-year contract to house inmates at a future regional jail in either Bradley or Drew county. The intergovernmental agreement was projected to cost the state more than $163 million over the 20-year contract. Officials in both counties had signed a deal in November 2019 with Louisiana-based LaSalle Corrections that called for the private company to pay for the construction and operation of the jail. The facility was scheduled to open Jan. 1, 2022, but the doors aren't open and it appears that won't change anytime soon. "We don't have a current estimated completion time," LaSalle Corrections official James McCormick said Wednesday. McCormick added that the company hadn't decided on a location, either. During a subcommittee meeting Monday, legislators questioned Arkansas Department of Corrections Secretary Solomon Graves on whether the proposed jail could be an answer to the state's prison-overcrowding problems. "Whenever it comes online, yes, it could help," Graves told committee members. Cindy Murphy, a spokeswoman with the Department of Corrections, said the department hasn't received any updates on the status of the regional jail facility. Rep. Jeff Wardlaw, R-Hermitage, a Bradley County resident and longtime supporter of the project, said Wednesday that he didn't have a lot of information on the project but that some things had changed. "Some stuff happened with [President Joe] Biden's order with private prisons to go along with the pandemic and other stuff, so that is being worked out at the moment," Wardlaw said. Concerns about prison overcrowding have been expressed by legislators and Gov. Asa Hutchinson in recent months after sheriffs from across the state complained about overcrowding within their facilities because of the backup of state prisoners who are being held at the jails. Sheriffs have said the overflow creates an unsafe environment for county jail employees. Citing a 10-year projection of inmate population growth, Hutchinson said in February that he wanted to use surplus general revenue to expand the North Central Unit in Calico Rock by about 498 beds. In March, the governor said $75 million had been set aside for that expansion. Wardlaw said the LaSalle facility wouldn't be the answer to the state's overcrowding problem. "Those people in the county jails usually don't qualify to be put in the regional jail because of the type of crimes they have committed," Wardlaw said. "This is a lot more than just moving 500 inmates around. "This will not fix overcrowding problems because most of the crimes are violent crimes and ones that can't be housed at this facility." McCormick said LaSalle Corrections still has a plan with Bradley and Drew counties, but that is all that it is. "It is just a plan at this point," he said. "This is a project that we would like to still develop." The facility was expected to be located in Warren, but McCormick said that is no longer the case. "We haven't chosen an alternate site yet, but we are in the process of looking at alternate sites," he said. "So many issues come up with facilities in the design and development stage. Due to various reasons, the one in Warren didn't work out. "We still have an agreement with the county judges." An agreement was reached between LaSalle and the two counties in 2019. Details of the contract were not available, and multiple attempts to contact County Judge Klay McKinney of Bradley County and County Judge Robert Akin of Drew County had not been returned as of Friday afternoon. McCormick said the estimated bed count in the facility would be similar to the originally proposed 500 beds, but a few things could change. "We are looking forward to developing in the state of Arkansas," he said.

Bexar County Jail, Bexar County, Texas
March 12, 2008 Express News
A small plane crash Monday night killed a Louisiana businessman whose private prison services company, Premier Management Enterprises, was at the center of a public corruption investigation that last year forced the resignation of Bexar County Sheriff Ralph Lopez. Patrick LeBlanc, 53, died with the pilot while trying to land in rough weather in Lafayette, La., according to a family friend and local press reports. LeBlanc and his brother, Michael LeBlanc, co-owned Premier and LCS Corrections Services, which build or service prisons in several states, including in three South Texas counties. The brothers' company remains the subject of an ongoing FBI investigation into "contracting irregularities," a bureau official confirmed. "He had great integrity and honor, unlike what some of you guys tried to do to him," said Ron Gomez, a close friend and partner in a small weekly newspaper that published its first edition last week. Gomez said LeBlanc went into the news business as a response to negative publicity about his company's role in a Bexar County corruption probe that caused him to lose a race last fall for state legislative office. Premier Management Enterprises, which has operated jail commissaries in Texas, was at the center of a Bexar County district attorney's investigation involving a foreign vacation gift to Lopez and cash payments to the sheriff's top aide, John Reynolds, before, during and after the company was given commissary contracts. The LeBlanc brothers have repeatedly denied all wrongdoing and have not been indicted or formally accused of any crime related to the Bexar County jail commissary contract. But Lopez resigned and pleaded guilty to reduced misdemeanor charges for accepting a Costa Rica golf vacation from the LeBlancs, while Reynolds last month was sentenced to 10 years for demanding thousands of dollars in "consulting fees" and charitable donations from Premier. The FBI took over from state authorities, and over the last several months, agents have interviewed Lopez and Reynolds as part of their respective plea deals. FBI Special Agent Erik Vasys said the bureau was well aware of LeBlanc's death but declined to discuss whether the tragedy might affect the investigation.

December 4, 2007 San Antonio Express-News
A Bexar County judge has agreed to dismiss a libel lawsuit brought against the San Antonio Express-News by Premier Management Enterprises, a Louisiana-based company that formerly ran Bexar County Jail's commissaries. In the lawsuit, filed in February 2006 against Hearst Newspaper Partnership, the San Antonio Express-News and reporter Elizabeth Allen, Premier's principals, Patrick and Michael LeBlanc and Ian Williamson, claimed the newspaper published two stories and one editorial containing “false and misleading statements” accusing them of conduct that was “unethical, incompetent and, in some cases, illegal.” On Thursday, Judge David Berchelmann of the 37th District Court signed an order after both parties agreed to dismiss the suit with prejudice, meaning it cannot be brought again. As part of the agreement, the newspaper acknowledged three errors that ran in Allen's stories and in a subsequent editorial in December 2005: LCS Correction Services is not Premier's parent company. Michael LeBlanc had no past legal problems at the time the articles were printed. Charges against Patrick LeBlanc, Michael LeBlanc's brother, in connection with a charitable bingo operation on an American Indian reservation were dismissed. The 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals later affirmed the dismissal. Since Allen's stories, Premier has phased out its commissary operations at the jail. Former longtime Sheriff Ralph Lopez resigned in August as part of an agreement with prosecutors regarding his dealings with Premier. It included that Lopez plead no contest to three misdemeanor charges, and pay a $10,000 fine, resulting from an all-expenses-paid golfing and fishing trip to Costa Rica that Premier gave him in August 2005. Lopez's plea deal also shielded his wife, Nancy, from any potential state charges. Lopez's longtime campaign manager and friend, John Reynolds, also pleaded guilty to one felony count of theft related to his dealings with the company. Reynolds was Lopez's appointee to the Benevolent Fund board, which awarded and oversaw the commissary contract. According to court documents, Reynolds told Premier to contribute to Lopez's campaign and give charitable donations through Reynolds in exchange for operating the commissary. Premier attorneys have insisted that there was no wrongdoing in the way the company landed the contract. Reynolds is awaiting sentencing.

Bi-State Jail/Bowie County Detention Center
Bowie County, Texas
Dec 22, 2021 texarkanagazette.com

Another civil lawsuit stemming from an in-custody death at LaSalle-run lockup in Texarkana has settled
TEXARKANA, Texas -- Another civil lawsuit stemming from an inmate death in the Bowie County jail has settled. Texarkana lawyer David Carter filed suit in January on behalf of the daughter and estate of Franklin Brooks Greathouse in the Texarkana Division of the Eastern District of Texas against LaSalle Corrections, the City of Texarkana, Texas, Bowie County and individual LaSalle employees. The suit settled this month with the terms of the agreement to remain confidential, Carter said. "We were able to resolve this case to everyone's satisfaction with some help from the court," Carter said, referring to mediation which resulted in the settlement. LaSalle, a private jail management company, opted to pull out of Bowie County in February. The Bowie County Sheriff's Office is now managing the jail. Greathouse, 59, was arrested and booked into the Bowie County jail at around 10 p.m. March 10, 2019, on a warrant for forgery issued in Miller County, Arkansas. The following morning, Greathouse complained to jail staff that he suffered a seizure. A LaSalle-employed licensed vocational nurse allegedly spoke with Greathouse as he sat on the floor in a dayroom in the jail at about 11 a.m. the next day, but did not take his vital signs or complete any medical assessment. According to a custodial death report prepared by the Bowie County Sheriff's Office and submitted to the Texas Attorney General, jail staff may not have believed Greathouse was ill. "Greathouse was responsive and able to walk to his own cell within F-Pod; dispelling his claim of seizure," the report states. At around 7 p.m. that night, Greathouse was found unresponsive on the floor of his cell by another inmate. Lifesaving measures were unsuccessful. The suit alleges that correctional officers not only failed to conduct routine, state-mandated, cell checks on Greathouse but falsified records to show they had. Falsification of jail records is a felony under Texas state law though no LaSalle staff member has been charged with the offense. The Texas Commission on Jail Standards conducted an inspection following Greathouse's death that involved reviewing video footage to determine if staff conducted the face to face observations required by state law every 60 minutes. "It was determined that jail staff falsified their observation logs to reveal 8, 60-minutes face to face observations that did not in fact occur," the complaint states. "LaSalle staff had done the same in the hours leading to the deaths of Michael Sabbie and Morgan Angerbauer." Sabbie, 35, who had been complaining of breathing problems, was thrown to the floor and pepper sprayed as five jailers piled on top of him in summer of 2015. In a video of the events preceding Sabbie's death hours later, Sabbie repeatedly exclaims, "I can't breathe, I can't breathe." Sabbie died in his cell the same night. The following year, 20-year-old Morgan Angerbauer died in a medical observation cell. She died of diabetic ketoacidosis after being denied medical treatment for hours. A LaSalle nurse pleaded guilty to misdemeanor negligent homicide in the death. A lawsuit involving a woman who died of meningitis less than a week after an ambulance took her from the Bi-State jail to a local hospital remains pending in federal court. Holly Barlow-Austin complained for months of a constant headache, a lump in her neck, dizziness, blurry vision, blindness and numbness in her legs, according to the complaint filed on behalf of her estate, her mother and her husband. Video surveillance obtained by the Gazette in Barlow-Austin's case shows she was unable to see food or water left in her medical observation cell. The case is scheduled for jury selection in January 2023 before U.S. District Judge Robert Schroeder III in Texarkana's downtown federal building.

May 7, 2021 texarkanagazette.com

Jury finds for private jail firm in Bowie County injury suit

TEXARKANA, Texas — An eight-member jury returned a verdict for the defense Thursday in a civil lawsuit that sought damages for a man who claims he became permanently disabled following a short stay in the Bowie County jail in 2018. The jury declined to find that LaSalle Corrections, a private company which managed the Bowie County jail from February 2013 to February of this year, should pay any damages to William Scott Jones after hearing three days of testimony in the case in Texarkana's downtown federal building. Texarkana lawyer David Carter filed suit in 2019 on behalf of William Scott Jones in the Texarkana Division of the Eastern District of Texas. Jones was arrested the evening of July 17, 2018, for the misdemeanor offense of walking in the roadway, a violation of the Texas Transportation Code. Upon release from jail on the afternoon of July 19, 2019, Jones spent close to a month in a local hospital, where he underwent surgery that left him without a colon. Jones will wear an ostomy bag for the remainder of his life. Carter argued that missing video would have shown what happened to Jones in the jail and that he was denied even basic medical care while incarcerated in violation of his constitutional rights. Texarkana lawyer Paul Miller, who represented LaSalle and jail staff members named as defendants, argued that Jones was a drug abuser whose physical maladies predated his July 2018 arrest. During closing arguments, Miller said that medical staff who treated Jones while he was hospitalized noted that his body was "riddled with needle marks" and documented drug-seeking behavior. Miller described Jones' claims as "bogus, fabricated and manipulated." Miller reminded the jury in his closing remarks that following his hospital stay, Jones was arrested for stealing items including a smart car engine and other weighty equipment. Carter argued that Jones was allowed to languish in the jail and that staff didn't even bother to check his vital signs. "This is not a warehouse. This is not an animal shelter," Carter argued. "Thank God the county took the jail back." Carter argued that prior incidents in the jail, including the 2015 death of Michael Sabbie and the 2016 death of Morgan Angerbauer, show that LaSalle has a pattern of failing to provide adequate training to medical staff, of failing to provide adequate medical care and of falsifying checks correctional officers must make at regular intervals on inmates in their cells. Miller argued that installation of a "Guardian" system, which electronically records when officers perform cell checks, is evidence of LaSalle's efforts to improve compliance with state standards following the deaths of Sabbie and Angerbauer. Miller said the jury was attentive and that their quick verdict is welcomed by the defense, particularly for those LaSalle employees named individually in the complaint. "It's been difficult for them to live with those allegations," Miller said. "It was very gratifying, and gratifying for me as the one who had the pleasure to represent them." The jury deliberated less than two hours before returning a verdict for the defense. U.S. District Judge Robert Schroeder III presided.

Nov 20, 2020 texarkanagazette.com

Lawyer adds motion in jail lawsuit | Complaint alleges management firm allowed destruction of video evidence

TEXARKANA, Texas — A motion in a civil lawsuit against LaSalle Corrections alleges the private jail management company intentionally allowed video evidence to be destroyed in violation of the law. Texarkana lawyer David Carter filed suit on behalf of William Scott Jones in 2019. The complaint alleges Jones was beaten and denied medical treatment in the jail after being arrested the night of July 17, 2018, by Texarkana, Texas, police for a class C misdemeanor, "walking in the roadway." Such misdemeanor offenses are punishable by a fine only and do not result in jail time if there is a conviction. Speeding is a class C misdemeanor. When Jones was released from jail the afternoon of July 19, 2018, he was wheeled out in a restraint chair by jail staff. Jones spent the next month as a patient in Wadley Regional Medical Center where he underwent surgery for his damaged colon. He was diagnosed with acute renal failure, severe dehydration, "ischemic colitis caused by blunt force trauma," multiple facial and rib fractures, sepsis, pneumonia, blood clots and other maladies related to a delay in receiving treatment, according to the complaint. He must now wear an ostomy bag because of the damage to his colon and his medical expenses to date total more than $1 million. Carter filed a motion Thursday asking the court to enter a default judgment against LaSalle and Warden James McCormick for "spoliation of evidence." Spoliation occurs when a party intentionally hides, alters or destroys evidence. LaSalle's lawyer, Paul Miller of Texarkana, did not respond to a request for comment Thursday. At issue in the motion is video footage which is constantly recording via fixed cameras throughout the jail. Other than some footage of Jones during the booking process the night of July 17, 2018, video which might have shown how Jones was injured is lost. Jones has no memory of his time in the jail. Carter also complains that jail employees profess no knowledge of what happened to Jones. "No one in our case has or will testify as to the beating of Jones. Multiple correctional and medical staffers have been deposed. A communal case of amnesia concerning plaintiff has swept through the jail," the motion states. The video footage would have hopefully provided evidence of what happened to Jones. "They essentially destroyed the video footage by failing to download and preserve it before it was overwritten and therefore permanently lost," the motion states. "Even worse, defendants also failed to preserve the footage despite receiving a preservation letter while the footage was still available on the jail's digital video recorders." The motion alleges that LaSalle's own policies dictate that the footage should have been downloaded and preserved because Jones suffered serious injury and was being transported to a hospital immediately upon his release from custody. Carter sent a certified letter directly to McCormick seven days after Jones' release that included an open records and preservation of video request. "We further ask for appropriate steps to be taken to preserve all of the requested materials, including video footage, and that no records related to William Scott Jones' confinement are destroyed," the motion quotes the letter to McCormick. The motion notes that fixed camera footage remains available for at least 14 days and up to 30 days before it is overwritten. Carter argues that McCormick and LaSalle staff in Bowie County knew of the need for video footage to be preserved when an inmate is seriously injured or dies in custody. "The beating of William Jones was neither LaSalle's nor McCormick's first rodeo. These defendants are well aware that fixed camera footage from the jail has been known to bolster inmate claims of inappropriate uses of force and inadequate medical care," the motion states. "It was clear that there was a strong whiff of impending litigation on the breeze." The motion points to the cases of Michael Sabbie and Morgan Angerbauer, both of whom died in the jail in 2015 and 2016 respectively. Video footage in those cases was critical in showing excessive force used on Sabbie and a lack of medical care for Angerbauer, a diabetic who died after being denied medical care. Carter represented Sabbie and Angerbauer and McCormick was warden when both deaths occurred. According to the motion, federal law provides several remedies when there is a failure to preserve electronically stored information in anticipation of litigation. If the court finds that LaSalle intended to deprive Jones the footage so it couldn't be used against the company in a lawsuit, the court can assume the lost information was unfavorable to LaSalle, instruct a jury that it must presume the information was unfavorable to LaSalle or dismiss the case and enter a default judgment against LaSalle and in favor of Jones. Carter asks that if the court declines to enter a default judgment, "it should, at a minimum, instruct the jury that it may or must presume the missing camera footage is unfavorable to the target defendants. It should also impose stiff monetary sanctions on the target defendants and award Jones his attorney's fees and costs for bringing the spoliation to the court's attention." The case is currently scheduled for a jury trial in January before U.S. District Judge Robert Schroeder III in the Texarkana Division of the Eastern District of Texas.

Sep 17, 2020 cbslocal.com

Family Sues Private Jail Company For Texas Woman’s Death

DALLAS (CBSDFW.COM/AP) – The family of a woman who died after being held in an East Texas jail last year filed a lawsuit Wednesday against the company that runs the facility, claiming the staff neglected her care and ignored her pleas for help as her health deteriorated and she went blind. Holly Barlow-Austin’s husband and mother filed the lawsuit in federal court against Bowie County, LaSalle Corrections, and several of the company’s employees at the jail in Texarkana. They say LaSalle, which runs jails and immigration detention facilities in Texas, Louisiana and Georgia, violated Barlow-Austin’s rights and caused her death. Police in Texarkana, a city that straddles the Texas’ northeastern border with Arkansas, arrested Barlow-Austin in April of 2019 for a parole violation. The 46-year-old died two months later at a hospital — one in a string of deaths that have led to lawsuits and investigations of LaSalle’s operations. “What happened to Holly was not an isolated incident,” said Erik Heipt, a Seattle-based lawyer who’s representing Barlow-Austin’s family and has brought other cases against LaSalle. “She is just the latest victim of a corporate culture that sees inmates as dollar signs and puts profits over people’s lives.” The company, a Texarkana law firm that has represented it in past cases and Bowie County’s top official did not immediately respond to messages seeking comment. Barlow-Austin arrived at the Bi-State Jail with serious health conditions, including HIV, but normal vital signs and full mobility, according to the suit’s description of her medical records. She allegedly left “blind, emaciated, and barely able to move.” The lawsuit claims that LaSalle guards and medical staff neglected her heath care, falsified records to cover their failure to check on her and ignored obvious signs that her condition was worsening. It says they didn’t provide her prescribed medication, deprived her of food and water, and only took her to the hospital after it was too late. After not getting some of her medication for days, Barlow-Austin began experiencing headaches and dizziness, according to the suit, and tests showed her immune system was failing. Her condition continued to worsen and by mid-May she was placed on “medical observation.” The lawsuit describes hours of surveillance video of Barlow-Austin in her cell, growing sicker, writhing in pain and calling for help. By June, Barlow-Austin was so weak and blind that she allegedly struggled to reach and find the food and water guards slid through a slot in her cell door. The lawsuit states that she began soiling herself and took on the appearance of a “starving prisoner of war.” Despite this, over a period of days guards and medical staff didn’t check on her or, when they did, ignored her calls for help and water, according to the suit. It says staff falsified observation logs — something state inspectors also found last year in another case. A nurse finally checked Barlow-Austin’s vitals on the night of June 10, and she was taken to the hospital the next morning after medical staff found her pupils no longer reacted to light, the lawsuit states. LaSalle never told Barlow-Austin’s family that she was in the hospital, according to the court complaint, and, after they found out from the sheriff, tried to stop them from visiting her. According to the lawsuit, Barlow-Austin died of sepsis, meningitis, HIV/AIDS and accelerated hypertension on June 17. Her death came two months after LaSalle reached an undisclosed settlement with the family of a man who died at the Bi-State Jail in 2015. That lawsuit, which was also brought by Heipt, claimed LaSalle employees deprived Michael Sabbie of medications and treatment for his heart disease, diabetes and other medical conditions.

Dec 19, 2019 wfaa.com

For-profit jail company could face sanctions pending outcome of next surprise inspection

The Bowie County jail, run by LaSalle Corrections, has failed 7 inspections since 2015.

AUSTIN, Texas — State regulators are threatening to reduce the number of prisoners that an embattled private, for-profit company can house in its Bi-State jail in Texarkana after its most recent failed annual inspection. The jail run by LaSalle Corrections has failed three annual inspections and four special inspections since 2015. At the Texas Commission on Jail Standards meeting in November, commissioners unanimously approved a recommendation that the jail’s capacity be reduced by about 50 beds if it does not pass a re-inspection by Jan. 1. On Tuesday, LaSalle notified the state that it was ready for a re-inspection. Regulators said they would schedule an unannounced visit before the end of the month. If the jail fails again, LaSalle executives would have to appear at the board’s February meeting and face the possibility of the bed count being reduced further. “We continue to deal with some of the same issues year after year after year,” Brandon Wood, executive director of the Texas Commission on Jail Standards, told LaSalle executives during a commission meeting last month in Austin. “You are able to fix them for a period of time and then by the time the next annual inspection occurs we see the same issues again.” LaSalle officials were forced to appear at the commission’s November meeting as a result of a new law that requires private jail operators to appear before the jail commission whenever they fail an inspection. Lawmakers created the requirement following a WFAA investigation that exposed significant problems in the way the company runs its jails in Texas. In its most recent annual inspection in October, regulators found that the Texarkana jail wasn’t properly documenting the distribution of medications, and that guards were not checking on prisoners as required. The company failed a special inspection in August after regulators found that jail checks were not conducted in a case involving a suicide. It failed another special inspection involving the death of Holly Austin after regulators found medications were not properly dispensed or documented. Jay Eason, the company’s director of operations, told commissioners that guards would be disciplined for not making checks and that if the company discovered that guards had falsified documents indicating checks had been done, they would be terminated. “We’re going to step up our game on these checks,” Eason told commissioners. Guards falsifying jail checks is not a new problem for LaSalle. A WFAA investigation found that in several prisoner deaths, checks were not properly performed even though paperwork said they were. Former jailers told WFAA that LaSalle often has too few guards on each shift to watch all the prisoners in order to save on salary costs. Eason also told commissioners that he planned to meet with the jail’s nursing staff to ensure they understand the importance of making sure prisoners get medical attention when they need it. “It’s going to be all hands on deck,” he told commissioners. “We’re going to get these issues resolved. The staff are going to know that if they’re not doing their job, they are going to be held accountable.” Jail commissioners seemed skeptical about Eason’s assurances, however. “What is concerning to me is that these are routine things that need to be carried out every day at the jail,” said Dr. Esmaeil Porsa, the commission’s vice-chair. “These are the type of things that are … not complicated.” “We are struggling with the checks and getting employees to take those checks seriously today and getting their checks done … in a timely manner,” Eason told the commission. Wood told Eason that if it did not fix its staffing shortages, the commission would limit the number of prisoners its facility could hold. That means the company would have fewer beds for not only county prisoners, but also federal inmates – which bring in significantly more revenue. “I understand the needs of the federal government, but we need to take care of our own first,” Wood said. It marks the second time that the Texas jail commission has threatened to reduce the number of jail beds at one of LaSalle’s facilities to force the company to follow the rules. Earlier this year, one of LaSalle’s jails near Waco failed two special inspections and an annual inspection in five months. After the state jail commission said it would reduce the number of beds LaSalle could use there, the company decided that it no longer wanted to operate that jail. The McLennan County sheriff’s department has since taken over the operation of the facility. Since 2015, four prisoners have died inside in the LaSalle’s Bi-State jail in Texarkana. Jailers in each of the four cases falsely claimed to have conducted checks on the inmates when they actually had not done them. In 2015, Michael Sabbie, a diabetic with asthma and heart problems, repeatedly told nurses he was having trouble breathing. Guards pepper-sprayed him as he screamed, "I can't breathe." Sabbie, 35, was found dead of a heart attack on his cell floor. In 2016, 20-year-old Morgan Angerbauer, also a diabetic, died from a lack of insulin in her cell. Jailers and a nurse ignored her as she screamed for help for hours. A nurse was convicted for her role in Angerbauer’s death. In March, 59-year-old Franklin Greathouse was found dead in his cell. Earlier that day, he had complained he was having a seizure, but jail officials wrote this in a report to the state: “Greathouse was responsive and able to walk to his own cell...dispelling his claim of seizure.” In July, 48-year-old Michael Rodden was found hanging by socks tied together.

Sep 28, 2019 ky3.com
Arkansas panel approves
20-year contract for private jail
PINE BLUFF, Ark. (AP) — A state panel has approved a 20-year contract to house as many as 500 state inmates at a privately run jail facility in southeast Arkansas. The Arkansas Democrat-Gazette reported that the state Board of Corrections on Thursday approved the plan to contract with Drew and Bradley to house inmates at the facility, which will be operated by Louisiana-based LaSalle Corrections. The board's chairman presented the contract as an opportunity to move more than 300 state inmates at a privately run jail in Texas back to Arkansas, while also relieving some bed space at state prisons. The counties will contract with LaSalle. The counties have sought to contract with a private provider to find space to house local offenders awaiting trial. No private adult lockups have operated in Arkansas since 2001.

Jun 27, 2018 texarkanagazette.com
Suit moves forward for family of man who died in local jail
A federal civil lawsuit stemming from the July 2015 in-custody death of a man in Texarkana's Bi-State Justice Building jail is moving forward. Michael Sabbie, 35, was found dead in his cell shortly after 6 a.m. on July 22, 2015. He had been arrested by Texarkana, Ark., police and booked into the jail on a misdemeanor charge the afternoon of July 19, 2015, following a verbal argument with his wife, according to a complaint filed in May 2017 on behalf of Sabbie's family in the Texarkana Division of the Eastern District of Texas. Upon intake, Sabbie told jail staff he suffered from asthma, heart disease, diabetes and high blood pressure. Despite his medical conditions and his need for medications to treat them, Sabbie allegedly was given no drugs during his incarceration. Also, nursing staff failed to conduct even routine monitoring of his blood pressure and blood sugar, even though such testing was ordered by the intake nurse, the complaint states. Sabbie repeatedly showed and complained of symptoms of severe medical distress, which should have moved jail personnel to take him to a hospital but allegedly were ignored, according to the complaint. Sabbie allegedly told nursing staff he was short of breath and "unable to breathe while lying down" at 3:30 a.m. July 20, 2015. A jail nurse noted that his blood oxygen level was down about 8 percent from the day before and that his heart rate was significantly higher, but jail workers allegedly failed to conduct even basic tests that might have illuminated his dire need for treatment, according to the complaint. Nursing staff allegedly continued to ignore Sabbie's constant breathing complaints, and officers reportedly wrote him up July 20, 2015, for faking illness and breathing problems. Sabbie's worsening condition was allegedly obvious to court staff at a hearing July 21, 2015, and the judge offered to let Sabbie sit during the proceeding. About 4:15 p.m. the same day, jail cameras recorded Sabbie speaking to a correctional officer while holding a tissue to his face and leaning against a wall. In the recording, Sabbie briefly moves out of the camera's view, and the next images depict officers piling on top of Sabbie while one sprays him in the face with a chemical agent as he is pinned beneath them and unable to move. Sabbie repeatedly states, "I can't breathe, I can't breathe," as officers threaten him according to a recording from a hand-held camera with audio. After being placed in a shower, where he appears to momentarily collapse, Sabbie is thrown into his cell. He is discovered dead the following day by officers who open the door after Sabbie fails to respond to their commands to pull up his pants. U.S. Magistrate Judge Caroline Craven denied a motion to dismiss in a report and recommendations issued Nov. 6. The complaint, filed on behalf of Sabbie's estate and individual family members by Erik Heipt and Edwin Budge of Seattle and Texarkana lawyers Matt Soyars and Bruce Flint, names LaSalle Corrections, a private jail management company; Bowie County, Texas; Texarkana, Ark.; and a number of individual LaSalle employees as defendants. On Monday, Budge and Heipt filed a motion asking the court to break the trial down into two phases. The first phase of trial will deal with what happened in the jail and whether any of the defendants should be found liable for Sabbie's death and/or guilty of violating his civil rights. If a jury finds that one or more of the defendants is liable, the jury would decide in the first phase the amount of damages that should be awarded for Sabbie's pre-death pain and suffering and whether, and in what amount, punitive damages should be awarded. Should the jury find none of the defendants liable for Sabbie's demise, the trial would end. But if the jury determines there is liabilty, then a second phase to determine the amount of damages each of the individual defendants should receive will commence, under the plaintiffs' lawyers' proposal. The motion argues that the two-phase trial is a good idea because it would make the testimony of members of Sabbie's family, including his children, unnecessary if no liability is found, shorten the trial's length and avoid the possibility that prejudicial or emotional testimony could taint the jury's findings concerning liability. "First, bifurcation would be vastly more efficient because the many first-phase witnesses have no information relevant to second-phase issues—and vice versa. In other words, there is a distinct separation between the witnesses who would be called in the first and second phases. The eight individual plaintiffs (Mr. Sabbie's four minor children, his widow, and his three siblings) as well as several dozen supporting damages witnesses have no information concerning first-phase issues of liability, cause of death, pre-death pain and suffering, or punitive damages," the motion states. The defense is expected to present evidence at trial that might cast Sabbie in a bad light and testimony from members of Sabbie's family could lead a juror to feel sympathy. The motion argues that "prejudicial" testimony would be primarily presented in the second phase, eliminating the risk that it could influence the jury's findings in the damages phase. The bifurcated trial could also mean less time sitting around for witnesses. The case is scheduled for jury selection and trial in April 2019 before U.S. District Judge Robert Schroeder III in Texarkana's downtown federal building.
Texas, GEO (2), Central Texas Detention Facility

May 26, 2017 rawstory.com
Shocking video shows how guards at for-profit prison left sick prisoner to die despite pleas for help
A shocking new video shows guards at a for-profit Arkansas prison roughed up a prisoner who tried to warn them about his assorted medical conditions — and then left him to die in his cell despite his repeated pleas for their help. The prisoner in question, an Arkansas father of four named Michael Sabbie, was first taken into custody in July 2015 on a misdemeanor assault charge. According to the New York Times, Sabbie warned officials at the jail that he suffered from heart disease, high blood pressure and asthma — but guards nonetheless accused him of faking illnesses when he regularly collapsed in his cell because he had difficulty breathing. The video obtained by the Times begins with Sabbie standing in the hallway in the prison, leaning against the wall trying to catch his breath. A guard then comes and confronts Sabbie, who then tries to walk away down the hall. At this point, several guards tackle him and bring him to the nurse’s station for treatment. “The video shows Mr. Sabbie breathing heavily over the next nine minutes as corrections officers drag him to the nurse’s station and then into a shower,” the Times notes. “After he collapses in the shower, guards pick him up and pull him into his cell as his orange pants fall below his waist. Mr. Sabbie can be seen rolling on the floor and wiping his face with his shirt before the recording stops.” Sabbie regularly shouted out “I can’t breathe” as the guards took him back to his cell. He was found dead in his cell the next morning. Sabbie’s family filed a wrongful death lawsuit against the for-profit prison where Sabbie was being held, as it accused at least a dozen employees at the jail of being responsible for his death.

Oct 6, 2016 carbonated.tv
‘I Can't Breathe’: Father Of Four Begged For Help Before Dying In Jail
Michael Sabbie pleaded for water and told prison guards he couldn't breathe as they wrestled, gassed and showered him hours before his death. A video from a private prison on the Texas-Arkansas-Louisiana border revealed the disturbing circumstances around the death of a 35-year-old black inmate. The Texarkana man died last year in July, but the Huffington Post released the footage online on Wednesday. Michael Sabbie, father of four, was found dead in his cell at the Bi-State Jail three days after the police arrested him on misdemeanor and domestic assault charges. When he had appeared in the court earlier, he said he was spitting blood and needed to go to a hospital. A judge had set his bail at $2,500. The graphic video shows how the correctional officers violently subdued him and ignored his pleas for medical aid in the hours before his death. In fact, they flung him to the ground, piled on top of him, pepper-sprayed him in the face and took no notice as Sabbie screamed, “I can’t breathe.” The surveillance footage shows the victim leaning against a wall when guard at the jail, run by a private company called LaSalle Corrections, threw him to the ground. Five officers attacked Sabbie as he began begging for help.  A sixth joined the group and pepper-sprayed Sabbie, accusing him of resisting them. “Get your hands behind your back or you’ll get it again!” a guard yelled as the others joined in and picked up Sabbie, propping him against a wall outside a nurse’s office. “I can’t breathe, sir,” the inmate responded. “Please, please. I got pneumonia.” He continued to beg for water as a nurse examined him, claiming his symptoms were normal for someone who had been hit with the stinging chemical. Meanwhile, Sabbie continued panting and saying “Please, please” as the officers dragged him to a shower to wash him off and then threw him on the ground in his cell, closing the door. The man died 14 hours later of “natural” causes. “If you just looked at the cause of death, you would think that Michael died of some sort of hypertensive heart condition, and that may be true,” Erik J. Heipt, one of the attorneys representing the Sabbie family, told the Huffington Post. “But if we didn’t have a video, we’d never know that he had been begging for help due to his shortness of breath and inability to breathe. We’d never know that he said ‘I can’t breathe’ 19 times in the nine minutes that we hear in that video.” Medical examiners linked Sabbie’s death to “hypertensive arteriosclerotic cardiovascular disease.” However, his family believes he died from a treatable and recognizable ailment known as pulmonary edema – which means excess fluid in the lungs due to a heart condition. “We often find that someone’s death is characterized as ‘natural causes’ ? maybe it was cancer, maybe it was heart disease,” said David C. Fathi, the director of the ACLU’s National Prison Project. “But if you look at the medical record, you often find egregious neglect and denial of care. If someone dies of cancer that went totally untreated, is that death from natural causes?” The authorities said Sabbie’s wife, Teresa, reported that her husband threatened her during a fight over money shortly before his arrest. The man did not plead guilty to the charges. His wife called his death “a tragedy that should never have happened.” “I can’t put into words how devastated my children and I are after the loss of Michael,” said the wife. “He was my backbone and best friend. My children lost a wonderful father who wanted the best for his family. A piece of our heart is gone, and I pray to God for justice.” Earlier this year, the Department of Justice decided not to pursue charges against any of the officers involved despite the inhumane treatment displayed in the video.

Brooks County Detention Center
, Falfurrias, Texas
July 8, 2011 KZTV 10
On New Year's Eve 2008 Mario Garcia pled guilty to 2 charges of submitting fraudulent bids to the government to win contracts at the Corpus Christi Army Depot. U-S District Judge Janice Graham Jack ordered Garcia be taken into custody until sentencing. Garcia was brought to the Brooks County Detention Center and placed on suicide watch. He was there when he died January 12th, 2009. His family is suing the jail and some of it's officials. Kathy Snapka represents Garcia's family. "It is our allegation that the prison disregarded his very, very serious medical condition and that's why days after he was sent to Brooks County he died," she said. Snapka says the case has flipped between district and federal courts, but now a February trial date has been set in Mc Allen where U.S. District Judge Randy Crane sits. "He's aware that the matter's been on file for a significant length of time. And I think that he wants the case moved along," Snapka told Action Ten News. According to the lawsuit, Garcia had a known seizure disorder and was on medication for it. And that he suffered from seizures and headaches while in jail. It also says jail officials 'breached their duty of care to Garcia by failing to care for his medical needs. The Brooks County Death Certificate lists Garcia's cause of death as seizure disorder. The Nueces County medical examiner's autopsy says the same thing. The defendants in the case are LCS Correction Services, which owns the jail, former jail warden Miguel Niderhauser, and Dr. Michael Pendleton, former head of the jail's medical staff. On Janaury 23rd 2009, just days after Garcia's death, we reported that LCS President Dick Harbison told us Niderhauser resigned and Pendleton's contract was terminated. Attorneys for all defendants told us by phone today that they couldn't comment on a pending case, but that their clients plan to vigorously defend themselves.

July 23, 2009 Caller Times
The family of a man who died in a privately run prison in Brooks County has filed a lawsuit in federal court alleging he was denied medical treatment. Mario Alberto Garcia, 42, was awaiting sentencing at LCS-Brooks County on charges of bid-rigging at the Corpus Christi Army Depot when he was found dead in January. Garcia suffered from a seizure disorder and was prescribed medication to treat it. The lawsuit claims he was denied access to medication, despite warnings from family members about his condition. An autopsy by the Nueces County medical examiner found that Garcia died of the seizure disorder. The lawsuit seeks unspecified damages. It names prison owner LCS Correction Services, the prison’s former warden and former doctor as defendants. The prison typically houses inmates facing immigration charges. Representatives of the doctor and prison did not return calls for comment. Garcia had pleaded guilty to submitting inflated bids for office equipment. Along with those bids, he submitted lower bids from his own company. In most situations, defendants facing white-collar crimes remain free while awaiting sentencing. But a federal judge, concerned over Garcia’s mental status, ordered him to the Brooks County facility on suicide watch. Garcia could have been sentenced to as long as 10 years in prison, but was likely to receive only a few months under federal sentencing guidelines.

January 14, 2009 Caller Times
An inmate awaiting sentencing on charges of rigging bids on federal contracts was found dead Monday at the Brooks County Detention Center in Falfurrias, and Texas Rangers are investigating how the death occurred. The circumstances are unclear. The Nueces County Medical Examiner's Office performed an autopsy Tuesday but has not released a cause of death. The inmate, Mario Alberto Garcia, 42, had been placed on suicide watch at a court appearance. Garcia pleaded guilty Dec. 31 to submitting fictitious, inflated bids to supply office equipment at the Corpus Christi Army Depot. He submitted the fake bids along with his company's lower bid to win contracts. Under normal circumstances, a white-collar defendant like Garcia would remain free while awaiting sentencing, but U.S. District Judge Janice Graham Jack ordered him into custody over concerns that Garcia would take his life, said Garcia's criminal defense attorney, Keith Gould. A physician at the facility removed Garcia from suicide watch Jan. 8. He died Monday, said Al Lujan, deputy U.S. marshal. As part of his agreement to plead guilty, a third count of lying to U.S. Army investigators was dismissed. Prosecutors say Garcia also faxed phony bids in July 2007. He was not prosecuted for those incidents. Juan Reyna, an attorney representing Garcia's family, said Garcia had a medical condition. Reyna, who declined to identify the condition, said Garcia's family knew of it and warned jail officials about it. "The family had some major concerns with respect to medical treatment Mr. Garcia was receiving," Reyna said. "The family made it very clear regarding medical treatment." Reyna said he has requested the facility preserve several categories of records relating to Garcia. The private facility is run by LCS Corrections Services of Lafayette, La., and is typically used to house illegal immigrants. Gary Copes, general manager for LCS, said a Texas Ranger visited the facility Wednesday as part of the investigation. Copes declined further discussion.

September 15, 2004 Caller-Times
The manhunt for an escaped prisoner continued Tuesday as officers combed the area surrounding the Brooks County Detention Center with dogs, on horseback and by helicopter, Sheriff Balde Lozano said.
On Monday, Elias Ramirez Martinez, 20, of Veracruz, Mexico, escaped from the privately owned holding center. Inmates were being moved from an eating area just before 7 p.m. when Martinez made his getaway, jumping a 10-foot electric fence, Lozano said. It was the facility's first breakout since September 2002, when two inmates escaped through the detention center's ceiling. Measures have been taken since then to prevent similar escapes. Ceilings were enclosed with heavy mesh and the electrical fence was installed, Lozano said. It was not known if the fence was activated when Martinez jumped it.

September 29, 2002 Caller-Times
Falfurrias residents reacted with fear and worry after learning that two inmates escaped form the privately owned Brooks County Detention Center early Saturday.  The two men, Juan Guerra and Steven Torres, were being held at the facility prior to their trials. Guerra, a Mexican national, had been charged with murder and Torres was arrested for a parole violation- an alleged robbery.  The two men were missing during an inmate headcount at 7 a.m. after they had been present for a similar count at 3 a.m., said Patrick LeBlanc, president of the Louisiana-based LCS Corrections Services Inc., the company that oversees the operations of the detention facility.  "I don't think it was whim ," he said.  "I think they studied and analyzed and searched for the scene and unfortunately they found it."  The two men kicked through a security ceiling that was welded shut, LeBlanc said.  Then, they climbed into the ceiling and got into a mechanical chase that the facility's pipes run through- similar to the escape in the movie "Shawshank Redemption," he said.  The chase leads to a door locked form the outside that opens on the detention center grounds, he said.  There, the two men, wearing detention-center issued orange uniforms with white T-shirts, scaled two double fences, each topped with three lines of razor wire.  Investigators found a blood trail, LeBlanc said.  As the search gout under way, residents learned of the news by word of mouth.  About half a dozen people called KPSO-Radio 106.3 news director Steve Cantu to express their concerns.  "A lot of people are worried," he said.  "These are not some of the nicest people out there."  LeBlanc said the detention center does not have a procedure to alert area residents of an escape, instead turning over the information to local law enforcement to get the word out. 

Catahoula Correctional Center
Apr 26, 2022 reason.com
She Says Her Son Died After Smoking Insecticide While He Was Supposed To Be on Suicide Watch. Now She's Suing. The lawsuit says there have been multiple deaths from neglect and poor suicide prevention policies at the Louisiana prison where Javon Kennerson died.

How was a man in a Louisiana prison who was supposed to be on suicide watch allowed to smoke insecticide, leading to his death? That's the question Jennifer Bartie wants answered. The man was her son, 37-year-old Javon Kennerson, who died in December 2020 several weeks after falling into a sudden and severe mental health emergency. A federal civil rights lawsuit by Bartie says her son's death is a result of the facility's well-documented failures to provide adequate health care and properly monitor suicidal inmates, which has led to numerous preventable deaths over the years. "In sum, after engaging in self-harm, ramming his head into his wall, acting psychotic, eating feces and drinking urine, Mr. Kennerson, in his altered mind state, was still under such poor care and supervision that he was permitted to smoke insecticide, which ultimately caused his death," the lawsuit, filed on Bartie's behalf by the National Police Accountability Project, says. The lawsuit alleges that staff and supervisors were deliberately indifferent to Kennerson's deteriorated mental state and self-harm, violating his Eighth Amendment right to adequate health care while incarcerated. As Reason has reported in the past, despite these constitutional protections, gruesome medical neglect and malpractice is common throughout U.S. prison and jail systems. Kennerson was serving a 20-year sentence after being convicted of an armed robbery spree in 2013. Bartie says he was in frequent contact with his family over the years and had no significant mental health issues until he was transferred in November 2020 to Catahoula Correctional Center, a private prison facility run by Lasalle Corrections that the Louisiana Department of Public Safety & Corrections contracts with. Shortly after arriving at Catahoula on November 18, 2020, Kennerson began exhibiting erratic behavior, such as attempting to run naked out of his cell and defecating on his lunch tray. The lawsuit says that, despite this, Kennerson did not receive any medical attention until November 25, when he was diagnosed with acute psychosis. Sometime between then and December 2, Kennerson obtained and smoked roach killer. He was transferred to a hospital on December 2 with low blood pressure, lethargy, and swollen limbs. Photographs accompanying the lawsuit show large, open gashes on his head, allegedly as a result of running into his cell door. By December 4, he was unresponsive and placed on life support. It was not until December 8, however, that Kennerson's family was notified of his condition. Bartie says a doctor told her that Catahoula had refused to give him any contact information for Kennerson's family until the day before. Kennerson died on December 12, 2020. "It was absolutely heartbreaking to find out the few details I had at that time and also to find out that in spite of my son's grave condition, they still did not have the decency to allow his family to be contacted," Bartie tells Reason. "I want people to know that, despite his crimes, he was a loving young man who did not deserve the treatment or lack of treatment he received. In fact, no one deserves that, and I want people in charge of him and others to be held accountable in order to possibly prevent this from happening to another family. My son is gone, but I want his name to live on." The lawsuit is the latest in a string of allegations and reports of inadequate care at LaSalle facilities. The lawsuit says that, "LaSalle facilities were found out of compliance with minimum suicide prevention standards 29 times in the last 5 years. At least ten incarcerated people have died by suicide in LaSalle facilities while on suicide watch since 2016." There have also been medical neglect cases. For example, Reason reported on the case of Holly Barlow-Austin, who died in 2019 after she was incarcerated in a jail in Texarkana, Texas, operated by LaSalle Corrections. After being deprived of her medications, she contracted meningitis, went blind, and was left for two days on the floor of a medical observation cell without food or water, where she repeatedly soiled herself, before she was finally taken to a hospital and died. The Texarkana jail is also where 20-year-old Morgan Angerbauer died of ketoacidosis in 2016 after being denied medications to manage her diabetes. Bartie says that, after her son's death, neither Catahoula nor the previous facility he was housed in would give her any more information. "Throughout the months following his death, I called both facilities to try and reason with someone to please give me any records they had on my son, because as his mother, I should be able to retrieve this information, especially since my son has passed away," she says. "They both refused." The Louisiana Department of Public Safety & Corrections and LaSalle Corrections did not immediately respond to a request for comment for this story.


In an Ominous Pattern, People Are Dying Once Transferred to Louisiana Prison

On November 18, 2020, 37-year-old Javon Kennerson was transferred to Louisiana's Catahoula Correctional Center, a prison that until recently was run by LaSalle Corrections, a private prison corporation. Less than one month later, after a series of mental health crises, hospitalizations and prison officials' apparent failure to supervise and monitor him, Kennerson was dead. Across LaSalle's constellation of prisons, several dozen people have died from delays in medical treatment or the lack of necessary medical treatment since 2014. Four of those deaths occurred at Catahoula. Over the past five years, at least 105 lawsuits have been brought against LaSalle for failing to provide medical care. According to the U.S. Department of Justice, Louisiana has not only the highest per-capita incarceration rate, but also the highest death-in-custody rate, with 786 deaths between 2015 and 2019. The vast majority of deaths (nearly 86 percent) were related to medical illnesses; fewer than half of known deaths were from a medical condition that existed before incarceration. A 2021 report prepared for the Louisiana legislature found a number of barriers to accessing basic health care in state-run prisons, including medical co-pays, lack of annual exams and preventive care, lack of confidentiality in requesting sick call visits, and threats of malingering charges, which can result in forfeiting earned good time (thus prolonging incarceration) or loss of visits and canteen (the ability to buy food and other items from the prison's sole store). Over a year later, Kennerson's mother, Jennifer Bartie, still doesn't know why her son died. After repeated and unsuccessful efforts to obtain his medical records, she has filed suit against the prison, LaSalle Corrections, the Louisiana Department of Public Safety and Corrections (DPSC), prison officials, and the companies that insure LaSalle, the DPSC and the parish sheriff. A Dramatic Deterioration, Kennerson had been imprisoned since 2013. Throughout his incarceration, he called his parents at least once a month. "He never talked about any type of mistreatment," Bartie told Truthout. He had no medical or mental health concerns, and nothing in their conversations made her worry. "The only thing he complained about was the food," she said, noting that Kennerson had always loved to eat. That changed on November 18, 2020, when Kennerson was transferred to LaSalle's Catahoula Correctional Center. The prison does not provide ongoing psychiatric care. If a person requires medical attention, they must wait until Wednesday, the sole day that medical providers visit the prison. On Thursday, November 19, Kennerson stripped naked and ran out of his cell. The following day, Friday, November 20, prison staff reported that he refused to keep his clothes on and had tried running out of his cell several times. Staff also saw him painting his cell with water and defecating on his meal tray. That Friday, prison administrators contacted the Louisiana DPSC about his condition. Three days later, they contacted DPSC again about Kennerson's condition, stating that they worried that he would hurt himself or others.That was a Monday. Kennerson would have to wait two more days until he could be evaluated by medical or mental health staff. On Wednesday, November 25, mental health staff evaluated and diagnosed him with acute psychosis. The treating psychiatrist recommended that Kennerson be transferred to a prison that could provide a higher level of psychiatric care. Still, he remained at Catahoula. "The things that contributed to Mr. Kennerson's death are very much the standard operating practice at LaSalle all the way back to 2015." Five days later, on November 30, Kennerson was able to obtain roach killer, which he smoked. From there, his physical and mental health deteriorated dramatically, requiring multiple hospitalizations. Two days later, on December 2, he was unable to walk and had to be transported in a wheelchair. His limbs were swollen and he was unable to verbally respond to questions from the doctor. Ten minutes after he arrived at the prison clinic, the doctor deemed him medically unstable and sent him to the emergency room at Riverland Medical Center. There, medical staff diagnosed him with several severe conditions, including rhabdomyolysis, a condition in which damaged skeletal muscles break down rapidly and can be caused by injury or toxins. He also had hepatitis, a head contusion and a large laceration on his forehead. Prison staff told the hospital that the injury was caused by Kennerson running into the cell door several times. Hospital staff ordered that Kennerson be brought to a neurologist within 24 hours. They also prescribed several prescription medications to be taken over the next 10 days. Kennerson was discharged and returned to Catahoula that same day. He remained lethargic and unable to speak. His body temperature remained low, his legs remained swollen and he needed a wheelchair to move. On the following day, December 3, prison staff once again contacted the DPSC about transferring him. They sent medical and emergency room records, but Kennerson remained at Catahoula. That evening, prison staff once again called an ambulance to bring Kennerson to the emergency room. There, he was intubated. Hospital staff noted that he had an altered mental state. The next day, he was transferred to Lakeview Regional Medical Center. He died there eight days later on December 12, 2020. The coroner believed his death was attributable to smoking roach killer. A Family Operation, compared to private prison titans CoreCivic and GEO Group, LaSalle Corrections is a relatively small company that operates a handful of carceral facilities in Arizona, Georgia, Louisiana and Texas. Founded in 1997, LaSalle Corrections quickly expanded so that, by 2013, one in every seven Louisiana prisoners were incarcerated in a LaSalle-owned or operated facility. LaSalle bills itself as a "family operation" based on "family values," but the company has long been plagued by accusations of medical neglect and death in its facilities. The National Police Accountability Project of the National Lawyers Guild estimates that 51 deaths have occurred in LaSalle prisons between 2014 and 2022. Many of those deaths are related to medical neglect, says Lauren Bonds, the project's legal director and co-counsel on Bartie's lawsuit. "These allegations are pretty uniform from 2015 to today," she told Truthout. This includes inadequate supervision and a lack of access to doctors or other medical staff. "The things that contributed to Mr. Kennerson's death are very much the standard operating practice at LaSalle all the way back to 2015." In April 2019, for instance, Holly Barlow-Austin was arrested for a probation violation and sent to the LaSalle-operated Bi-State Jail in East Texas. She arrived with several serious health conditions, including HIV, but according to a lawsuit filed by her husband and mother, had normal vital signs and full mobility. Jail staff repeatedly failed to administer her prescription medications and ignored her deteriorating conditions. By mid-May she was placed under medical observation; surveillance videos show her in her cell writhing in pain and calling for help. By the next month, Barlow-Austin had begun soiling herself and appeared emaciated. Despite these signs, staff allegedly failed to check on her and, when they did, ignored her calls for help and water. On June 11, two months after she entered the jail, medical staff found that her pupils no longer reacted to light and had her transferred to the hospital. Six days later, she died of sepsis, meningitis, HIV/AIDS and accelerated hypertension. Federal auditors have also found multiple instances in which LaSalle staff did not conduct cell checks or observations of people who exhibited mental illness or suicidality. Between 2017 and 2021, three separate audits found that LaSalle prisons failed to secure dangerous instruments, such as ropes, strings, syringes and sharp objects, that incarcerated people could use for self-harm or suicide. Since 2015, at least nine people (in addition to Kennerson) have died by suicide in LaSalle prisons. Bartie's lawsuit charges that the prisons' failures to supervise mentally ill and suicidal people stem from staffing shortages. This isn't unusual in a privatized setting, said Bianca Tylek, executive director of Worth Rises, a nonprofit that tracks companies that profit from incarceration. She notes that this occurs in private prisons as well as in government-run jails and prisons where health care has been outsourced to a private company. These staffing shortages are particularly common in rural areas, she added. Catahoula Correctional Center is located in Harrisonburg, Louisiana, which, in 2020, had a population of 308. Federal auditors have also found multiple instances in which LaSalle staff did not conduct cell checks or observations of people who exhibited mental illness or suicidality. Even if Kennerson had been transferred to a state-run prison, he still may not have received adequate mental health care. Louisiana's David Wade Correctional Center (DWCC), for instance, had one part-time psychiatrist to oversee the medication and treatment plans for an average of 72 patients with mental health needs. A 2018 lawsuit also charged that DWCC staff punished people with mental illness by chaining them to wooden chairs, opening windows to expose them to extreme cold and isolating them for prolonged periods. At the Raymond Laborde Corrections Center, a psychiatrist is on-site once every two weeks, while at Dixon Correctional Institute, where 30 percent of the population is on the mental health caseload, the psychiatrist is only on-site for six hours each week. "So many in-custody deaths are because we have an over-incarceration problem in this country and certainly in Louisiana, which has the highest incarceration rate in the entire world," stated National Police Accountability Project Legal Director Lauren Bonds. Louisiana, she said, "needs to end its contract with LaSalle. What caused Mr. Kennerson's death was that he was in a facility that was so indifferent to his needs that it allowed him to smoke insecticide and engage in other types of self-harming behaviors that significantly injured him. They've shown that they're incapable of improving care for people in custody." Citing the ongoing litigation, the Louisiana Department of Public Safety and Corrections declined to provide comment or answer questions from Truthout about care provided to Kennerson, mental health treatment in its prisons, or its contract with LaSalle. A Family Seeks Answers. The last time Jennifer Bartie spoke with her son was one week before he was transferred to Catahoula. She recalled telling him that one of his childhood friends had died the previous month and that Kennerson offered condolences to the man's mother. As always, he ended their call by saying, "Love you, mama." On December 8, medical staff at the Lakeview Medical Center contacted Bartie's mother about Kennerson. By then, he had been on life support for four days. Bartie's mother called Bartie, who left work and, with her husband, three children and 4-year-old grandson, prepared to drive the five hours from their northern Louisiana home to Lakeview. They arrived that evening and, limited by COVID protocols to two visitors at a time, took turns staying with him for the next eight days. On December 12, Kennerson was taken off life support. Hospital staff allowed the entire family (except for the 4-year-old, whom a nurse watched in the lobby) to be with him during his last hours. As a Black mother, Bartie has always worried about her children's safety from law enforcement. Since Kennerson's death, she says, those fears have magnified. "I'm a wreck when they walk out that door." Her youngest child is now a high school senior. He is six-foot-two and, Bartie says, she worries every time he walks out the door that he may be brutalized or killed by police. "He's just a big ol' gentle giant, he wouldn't hurt a fly, but are they gonna know that?" she asked. Kennerson's family still doesn't understand what led to his death. After repeated requests, Bartie received incomplete records from Catahoula, in which nothing was documented between November 25 and December 2. She also received two incident reports, one of which was incomplete, from the previous prison, the Beauregard Parish Southwestern Transitional Program. The reports stated that, on November 17, Kennerson was yelling, screaming and hitting the bars of his cell, and that guards had sprayed him twice with a chemical agent. "It didn't say anything about what he was yelling and screaming," Bartie stated. "So many in-custody deaths are because we have an over-incarceration problem in this country." Bartie's husband, Darrell, also has questions. He told Truthout that Kennerson, at six-foot-four and 280 pounds, had always been a "tall, solid kid." At the hospital, he recalled, they could see his collarbone and, if they pulled up his shirt, could count his ribs. "It takes time to get that malnourished," he said. He, too, wants to know what happened. After Kennerson's death, when he and his wife drove to Catahoula to pick up their son's belongings, he asked to speak with the warden. The warden declined to meet with them. Instead, they were given three garbage bags of their son's belongings and no answers. "I want to see documentation, I want to see video tape and I want everyone who's involved to be held accountable," Darrell told Truthout. So far, those answers haven't been forthcoming, prompting Bartie to reach out to attorneys, including the National Police Accountability Project, and to file suit to obtain them. "It's year two since my child has passed and I don't know what's happened," Bartie said. "He made some bad decisions, but he didn't deserve to die in this manner. I wouldn't wish this on anybody, not even those I feel are responsible for his death."

Coastal Bend Detention Center, Robstown, Texas
November 4, 2011 Record Star
Texas Commission on Jail Standards officials recently said the organization is powerless to oversee any changes at the Coastal Bend Detention Center in Robstown, after center officials decided to move out all of their county prisoners. Adan Munoz Jr., Executive Director of the TCJS said he was notified last week that LCS Corrections Services Inc., owners of the CBDC, asked for the detention center to be pulled off the state's inspection rolls, as they would no longer house county inmates.

July 12, 2011 Record Star
A Robstown detention center was recently found to be in non-compliance with state guidelines following an inspection by the Texas Commission on Jail Standards. Coastal Bend Detention Center, owned and operated by LCS Corrections Services Inc., was visited May 20 by representatives with the TCJS, during which an inspection was conducted. The results were posted on the agency's Web site last month.

May 3, 2010 Caller-Times
State jail inspectors ruled that a Robstown private detention facility doesn't meet state standards because it failed to report an inmate's death and its warden and deputy warden lack jailers' licenses. The Coastal Bend Detention Center was cited Monday for failing to report the death of a prisoner, who died April 18, according to commission Director Adan Muñoz. Michael Higgins, a former state trooper found guilty of stealing money from Hispanic drivers, also died of an apparent heart attack April 29, while in the facility. Officials with the prison were not immediately available for comment. Discussions with the deputy warden and the chief of security of the facility revealed that neither official knew of the requirement to notify the state agency of the deaths in custody, Muñoz said. Jail commission Assistant Director Shannon Herklotz told the men that their lack of reporting was a non-compliance issue and would be handled accordingly in a follow-up notice of non-compliance for failing to report the April 18 death. Herklotz determined that neither of the top two prison managers had proper state licenses, a violation of state standards. "Both the lack of the jailer licenses by the warden and deputy warden, the lack of properly or entirely filling out the inmate screening form, and failing to report the April 18, 2010, death in custody within 24 hours as required will immediately result in a notice of non-compliance with minimum jail standards for the Coastal Bend Detention Center," Muñoz said. The facility is out of compliance for the second time in a year.

February 1, 2010 Caller-Times
A private detention facility in Robstown has passed two surprise state inspections since the accidental release of a convicted sex offender put its compliance status at risk. The Coastal Bend Detention Center mistakenly released Mario Estrada Martinez, 31, an undocumented immigrant from Matamoros, Mexico, instead of Mario Estrada Antonio in November. Estrada Antonio was supposed to be turned over to U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement for deportation. Estrada Martinez, who was being held for illegally re-entering the U.S. and set for a hearing before U.S. District Judge Janis Graham Jack, was deported instead. The accidental release wasn’t a violation of state standards. But the Texas Commission on Jail Standards deemed the facility, operated by Lafayette, La.-based LCS Corrections, at risk of falling out of state compliance and promised a series of surprise inspections for 90 days, said Adan Muñoz, the jail commission’s executive director. State inspector George Johnson conducted the first surprise visit on the evening of Jan. 6, according to documents obtained by the Caller-Times through a public information request. The inspection did not reveal any non-compliance issues. But Johnson noted that of 118 officers, 85 were working with temporary state jailer licenses. All must complete training and pass a state-mandated jailer certification course within their first year of employment.

December 29, 2009 WEAU
There will soon be a new jail boss in town and he comes with a couple championship belts. Art Crews is the soon to be jail captain in Chippewa County, formally known as the Blonde Bomber. As the Blonde Bomber, he took on the likes of Ric Flair, Jesse “the Body” Ventura, Andre the Giant and, yes, even Hulk Hogan back in the 1980's. Now, his biggest fear is Wisconsin’s cold weather. "You're to be up here on Saturday?" Chippewa County Sheriff Jim Kowalczyk asks his new jail captain on the phone. Kowalczyk is looking forward to welcoming Crews up from Texas; he’s a man who comes with a couple championship belts. "When I was in wrestling, I was in corrections and I didn't know it,” Crews tells us with a laugh over the phone. “In other words, you're dealing with people every single day and wrestling has a lot of crowd psychology." Crews was in wrestling for a decade all through the 80’s. He's been working at jails and prisons ever since. Most recently as warden at Coastal Bend Detention Center, a private prison in Texas. Crews said he resigned in August. Two weeks later local newspaper reports show the prison failed an inspection. The Texas Commission on Jail Standards told the Corpus Christi Caller Times it "borders really close to complete incompetence." Crews said he knew it was bad when he left. He says that's why he left. "I voiced my concerns to the company that there were going to be issues not meeting standards and compliances. They did not comply and I had no choice but to resign." "He indicated they were undermanned, understaffed; he didn't have the budget he needed that he thought he could run the facility to the best of his ability."

December 18, 2009 Caller-Times
A private detention facility in Robstown faces frequent, unannounced state inspections for 90 days after its inadvertent release of a convicted sex offender. The Coastal Bend Detention Center did not violate state standards when Mario Estrada Martinez, 31, an undocumented immigrant from Matamoros, Mexico, mistakenly was released, but it is at risk of falling out of state compliance after corrections officers did not follow release procedures, according to a letter from the Texas Commission on Jail Standards obtained by the Caller-Times through an open records request. In November, federal authorities asked the prison run by Lafayette, La.-based LCS Corrections to release Mario Estrada Antonio to U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement for deportation. Instead Estrada Martinez, who was awaiting sentencing for illegal re-entry to the U.S., was released and deported. He was gone for three weeks before LCS corrections staff figured out they released the wrong prisoner. In Mexico, where both prisoners are from, the middle name serves as last name, and the last name is the person’s maternal surname. “Certainly an improperly released inmate is a liability to all parties involved,” Adan Muñoz, the jail commission’s executive director, wrote in the letter. Prison Warden Elberto “Bert” Bravo said an investigation is ongoing and focused on four employees. “We are trying to narrow it down to where it happened,” Bravo said. “It was human error. The procedures we had in place, they failed to follow the procedures.” No other county jail or private correctional facility holding county or out-of-state inmates is at risk, commission officials said. Being at risk means any member of the jail commission staff may make frequent, unannounced visits to the facility during the next 90 days. If no violations or noncompliance issues are noted, the facility will be removed from the at-risk list. “No one from point A to point Z ever verified his identity during several stages of release. By more than one detention officer, all the way to ICE, his identity was never confirmed,” Muñoz said Friday. Estrada Martinez had a prior conviction for a sexual offense, according to U.S. marshals. He was convicted in Iowa for sexual abuse and sentenced to 10 years in December 1999, according to court filings. He was paroled in 2002. U.S. District Judge Janis Graham Jack issued a warrant for Estrada Martinez’s arrest when the mishap was made public. He has not been rearrested.

December 11, 2009 Corpus Christi Caller-Times
A convicted sex offender has been missing from a Robstown lockup since Nov. 19, unknown to the prison’s officials until Thursday. Officials at the Coastal Bend Detention Center discovered that they inadvertently released Mario Estrada Martinez, 31, an undocumented immigrant from Matamoros, Mexico, who most recently was arrested for illegal re-entry. He was being held at the Robstown facility, owned by Lafayette, La.-based LCS Corrections, awaiting sentencing after pleading guilty to illegal re-entry to the U.S., a felony, U.S. District Judge Janis Graham Jack said Friday afternoon. Federal authorities asked the prison in November to release Estrada Martinez to U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement for deportation. Coastal Bend Detention Center handed over Estrada Martinez. Federal authorities actually were looking to deport Mario Estrada Antonio, according to the Texas Commission on Jail Standards. In Mexico, where both men are from, the middle name serves as last name, and the last name is the person’s maternal surname. “We really want to leave the whole mix-up, specifically how it happened, to Coastal Bend,” U.S. Marshals spokesman Carlos Alvarado said. “(I am talking about this) just so the community knows there is not a sex offender running our streets. He was deported and sent back. ICE deported him.” Estrada Martinez had a prior conviction for a sexual offense, Alvarado said. He was convicted in Iowa for sexual abuse and sentenced to 10 years in December 1999, according to court filings. He was paroled in 2002. LCS Warden Elberto “Bert” Bravo did not return calls. LCS Vice President of Operations Dick Harbison would not comment and referred comment back to U.S. Marshals. The Houston-based Immigration and Customs Enforcement-Detention and Removal division deported Estrada Martinez early this week, said Fred Schroeder, assistant special agent in charge for the local Immigration and Customs Enforcement office. ICE spokesman Greg Palmer said late Friday he would research what happened with Estrada Martinez and comment next week. It doesn’t appear that Estrada Martinez escaped on purpose, said Adan Muñoz, the jail commission’s executive director, after reviewing LCS’s preliminary escape report. He was released. “What transpired between the wrongly released inmate and the releasing officer is something that LCS will have to investigate,” Muñoz said. “There is no overt action shown by the mistakenly released inmate to indicate he made any statements to the releasing officer that he was attempting to disguise who he was while being released. “And why the receiving transport service did not verify the inmate’s identity is also something that needs to be ascertained and investigated,” Muñoz said. LCS contacted the jail commission within 24 hours of the discovery, which is required by law. The company must submit a written report detailing why and how the escape happened, Muñoz said. The release counts as an escape and could pose problems for the prison, Muñoz said. In mid-September, Coastal Bend Detention Center was cited by the jail standards commission for 17 compliance issues, including failure to classify inmates or to check for contraband, improper staff training, jailers without proper state licensing and no tuberculosis screening plan.

September 21, 2009 Corpus Christi Caller-Times
State jail inspectors have warned the owner of a private Robstown facility to rectify 17 compliance issues immediately or face possible closure. The Coastal Bend Detention Center was cited Monday for failing to classify inmates, check for contraband, improper staff training, jailers without proper state licensing and no tuberculosis screening plan, among other issues. If the facility, owned by Lafayette, La.-based LCS Corrections, cannot correct its problems, especially the jailers’ licensing, then the Texas Commission on Jail Standards could temporarily close it, commission Director Adan Muñoz said. “I have to bring any remedial order before the (jail) commission, but this borders really close to complete incompetence,” he said. The jail opened in September 2008. Its first inmates arrived in March. Jail warden Art Crews was replaced in August by Elberto “Bert” Bravo, who also is warden at LCS’ detention facility in Hidalgo County, said Dick Harbison, LCS vice president of operations. The management shake-up should help fix the jail’s problems, he said. “My people know exactly what needs to be done,” Bravo said. “I know the report looks bad. They say it is the worst they have ever seen. But honestly, we are going to be OK. It’s just going to take me a little bit of time to do it.” The jail will be in compliance by late October, he said. Within the past two weeks, Bravo hired two deputy wardens with more than 60 years of combined experience. He also laid off 26 jailers until they can get the correct state licensing. He fired another 10 for not doing what they were told, he said. The detention facility was overstaffed and reassigned some of its 175 staff members to cover jailer positions, Bravo said. The facility has a capacity for 1,056 inmates. When it was inspected last week it held 475, according to state inspectors. Most are undocumented immigrants housed in Robstown through a contract with federal agencies. Another 41 are inmates from Duval, Jim Wells and Kleberg counties, where jails are overcrowded, according to the jail standards commission. Compliance Issues-- The Coastal Bend Detention Center in Robstown had 17 compliance issues after state inspectors reviewed the facility last week. -- Inmate toilet and shower areas have insufficient privacy shields -- Jailers are not being trained properly for fire drills -- Jailers are not being trained properly in the use of air packs -- No documentation outlining generator testing or the transfer of the facility’s electric load at least once a month -- Inmates were not classified correctly -- Classification reviews were not conducted within 90 days of initial inmate custody assessments -- Classification workers didn’t receive the required four hours of training -- Internal classification audit logs were not kept -- No tuberculosis screening plan had been approved by the health department -- Twenty-four officers did not have a required jailer’s license or temporary jailer’s license -- Hourly face-to-face prisoner checks were not performed -- The facility did not meet the state mandated 1-to-48 jailer-to-inmate ratio -- Personnel did not conduct required contraband searches -- Disciplinary hearings for minor inmate infractions were conducted by a single person rather than a disciplinary board -- Jail did not respond to inmates with grievances within 15 days or resolve issues within 60 days as required -- Inmates did not receive one hour of supervised physical education three days per week as required -- A fire panel doesn’t show an inspection tag

March 7, 2009 Caller-Times
As federal prisoners began arriving at the privately owned LCS detention facility in Robstown on Friday, a company official said employees who were laid off in January have been rehired. In response to the influx of prisoners into the 1,100-bed facility, which has sat empty since it opened in September, the prison has called back some 40 employees who were laid off in January, bringing the current number of employees up to 75, said Dick Harbison, LCS vice president of operations. “It’s full steam ahead right now,” he said. And beginning Monday, the company plans to hire another 80 employees with starting pay at $11 an hour. The news comes a week after Nueces County Judge Loyd Neal and the U.S. Marshals agreed on a temporary price tag for prisoner housing. LCS will get roughly $44 per prisoner per day under the terms of an addendum to the contract already in place for housing prisoners in Hidalgo County.

February 5, 2009 Record Star
With necessary paperwork stalled in Washington D.C., the Coastal Bend Detention Center has yet to receive its first inmate, and recently laid off or reassigned over half of its staff. The detention center, a private facility owned by LCS Corrections Services, Inc. and located just south of Robstown, held a grand opening ceremony in November and was expected to receive its first inmates in early December. Arthur Crews Sr., the warden of the Coastal Bend facility, said a final contract that requires the signature of administrative personnel in the Washington D.C. branch of the U.S. Marshal service has not been signed, delaying the facility's opening. While that paperwork was filed months ago, Crews said the change in administration in Washington D.C. has been largely to blame for the hold up. "That's mainly due to the situation of the timing that's going on, with the Democratic Party going in, the Republican Party coming out, department heads not really knowing who's going to have what job and who's going to be replaced," Crews said. The facility initially hired 72 people in November, but that number fell to 60 by early January, as individuals found work elsewhere or relocated. Without any inmates, the facility is not bringing in revenue, which led the company to make significant staffing changes two weeks ago. During that process, six staff members were transferred to another LCS facility in the area, 12 were hired by the Nueces County Sheriff's Department and 16 were laid off. Those who were laid off primarily worked in the food service or customer service departments, Crews said. Of the 26 staff members still on the payroll at the Coastal Bend facility, most have seen their weekly hours reduced as a cost-saving measure, Crews indicated. Nueces County Sheriff Jim Kaelin said last week the detention center's loss was the county's gain, as the 12 individuals hired by the county are already certified through the state as corrections officers and will fill a significant staffing need. "It just so happens that we had reached the point that we had vacancies where we could hire all they wanted to send our way," Kaelin said. "It's going to be a win-win for us and a win-win for LCS because it helps them reduce their payroll." Although Crews could offer no timeline for when the final paperwork might be completed, he said he has little doubt the facility will be fully operational in the near future. "We don't know how long this contract's going to take. It could be two weeks, it could be two months or more. We just don't know," Crews said. "My speculation, with 22 years in the correction business, is that with us having 1,100 beds, it's not going to sit here empty." And Crews said all the employees laid off or reassigned have guaranteed jobs once the facility does start housing prisoners. "I let them leave here, the ones we laid off, and keep their ID badge and keep their uniforms," Crews said. "That's the bond that I have with the employees, and they are going to come back."

January 24, 2009 Caller-Times
LCS Corrections Services laid off half of its Robstown detention center employees Friday because federal authorities have yet to transfer in prisoners, but the company plans to offer jobs to some elsewhere. LCS, a private Lafayette, La.-based prison company, expected to have a full house at its 1,100-bed facility shortly after the prison opened in mid-November, but the center remains empty after a contract with the federal government stalled, said Dick Harbison, LCS vice president of operations. Of the 35 correctional officers laid off, six will be offered positions at the LCS detention facility in Brooks County, Harbison said. Short on correctional officers, Nueces County Jail will offer jobs to 14 others, county officials said. Fifteen temporarily will be left without jobs, Harbison said. To start the intake of federal prisoners from agencies such as the U.S. Marshals Service, Immigration and Customs Enforcement and the U.S. Border Patrol, LCS needs Nueces County to sign an agreement with marshals that will outline how much the federal government will pay for housing their prisoners. Congress also must pass a 2009 budget, which should occur when a continuing resolution allowing the federal government to operate under its 2008 budget expires in early March. The prison company intends to rehire the laid-off employees and hire additional staff once prisoners start arriving, Harbison said. Nueces County spent millions to clean up its jail's substandard conditions that led to the June 2006 removal of federal prisoners. The federal inmates haven't returned. County officials have been negotiating since January 2008 for a higher fee to house them at the jail. The contract also will include fees for housing federal prisoners at two LCS facilities. Because the federal government doesn't deal with private detention contractors, LCS is dependent on a "pass through" contract, where the county gets a share of fees charged per prisoner for passing through overflow federal prisoners to the company's private facilities in Hidalgo County and Robstown. Nueces County Judge Loyd Neal said Friday that the county, the U.S. Marshals Service and LCS are in agreement on new rates for the jail and the LCS facilities. He wouldn't disclose the negotiated rates. The proposed fees are awaiting review and approval from the Office of the Federal Detention Trustee, which oversees federal detention programs. The county, which received a $45.15 daily rate per prisoner prior to their removal from the county jail, was seeking a raise to $61.49. County officials previously have said that negotiations were stuck at about $53 a day per prisoner. "The marshals and I have agreed on that rate. We have worked with LCS, and they agree it is very favorable," Neal said. "We did this several months ago, and we have been unable to get any kind of funding out of the federal government. Until the new Congress and President (Barack) Obama reach an agreement (on a budget) there is no money available for a new arrangement for federal prisoners." The county receives $2 a day for each prisoner sent to LCS' Hidalgo County facility, and LCS earns roughly $43. A similar pass through deal is in the works for the Robstown facility once the county and the federal government sign off on new rates. "The minute we hear anything at all we will be contacting everybody to come back to work," Harbison said.

January 23, 2009 KIII TV
A new private prison near Robstown hasn't even opened up yet, but already some staff members have been laid off. The transition of power in Washington is said to be the main reason for the holdup. The Coastal Bend Detention Center is ready to go, but with no prisoners and no revenue, company officials were forced to do this for the time being. The new private prison in Robstown is ready for business. More than 1100 beds are made and waiting for federal prisoners, but the transition of power in the presidency has caused problems for the U.S. Marshal's Office to sign the contract and bring prisoners to the facility. "So we don't have inmates at this time," said Art Crews, Prison Warden for the LCS Coastal Bend Detention Center. "That's our revenue. Until we do, we can't hire the people back." So the prison officials called a meeting for its employees. They announced about 12 are being laid off, while another 48 are seeing their hours reduced. "First time in my 22 years in the correction field in a warden position having to tell them that and that hurts," Crews said. The private prison did find jobs for about 15 guards at the Nueces and Kleberg County jail.

East Hidalgo Detention Center, La Villa, Texas
March 3, 2012 The Monitor
The operator of Hidalgo County’s only private detention center brought in additional medical staff this week after concerns from county and state officials regarding inmate tuberculosis testing at the facility. The Monitor learned of a meeting between several federal, state and local agencies and LCS Corrections, which owns and operates the East Hidalgo Detention Center in La Villa. Questions about the facility came after the prison’s warden was suspended late last month. Health officials questioned the prison doctor’s assertion that it was safe for possible carriers of tuberculosis — including inmates who had tested positive in the past — to be kept with the rest of the prison’s population, said Adan Muñoz, executive director of the Texas Commission on Jail Standards. “They were not agreeing with the opinion of the state and the Hidalgo County Health Department that they were not being managed correctly … as far as being segregated,” Muñoz said. The meeting came after Hidalgo County Health Department officials learned a federal inmate at the facility recently who tested positive for tuberculosis, was released to Border Patrol agents and deported to Mexico without treatment, Sheriff Lupe Treviño said. “He was deported without any precautions or advisories put out,” the sheriff said. In another instance, county health officials learned of four inmates at the prison who had tested positive for tuberculosis or were possible carriers of the infection and were among other inmates, said Shannon Herklotz, assistant director of the Texas Commission on Jail Standards, who attended the meeting last month. County officials raised their concerns with LCS, but received little response from the prison’s management. “I guess they were shunned for lack of a better word,” Herklotz said. Tuberculosis, commonly referred to TB, is an airborne bacterial infection that involves the lungs, but can spread to other organs. It is spread via the air and can remain dormant in a person for years. The state requires prisons to test new inmates for tuberculosis within seven days of their booking at a penitentiary with more than 100 beds. A March 2011 Centers for Disease Control study shows Texas has one of the country’s highest rates for tuberculosis, with four cases per 100,000 residents. But Hidalgo County has an average rate twice as high as the state’s, Herklotz said. Prisons, where scores of people are confined together for extended periods, can be hotbeds for disease to spread, Muñoz said. “Any time you have a magnitude of inmates … you’ve got the potential for all sorts of diseases and so forth,” Muñoz said. The Hidalgo County Jail tests all inmates upon their initial booking into the facility and before they are placed among the general population, Treviño said. County inmates kept in La Villa are separate from those brought in by federal agencies. “The reason we (test inmates upon booking) is we do not want to take the chance of putting somebody back there infected and causing an epidemic,” he said. But LCS was not always testing inmates within the seven-day window, said Richard Harbison, the company’s executive vice president. “We were falling behind on our time period for doing our TB tests,” he said.

March 1, 2012 The Monitor
Details remain sketchy about a federal investigation into a La Villa prison warden, but the facility has faced separate scrutiny in recent weeks. But Hidalgo County’s only private detention facility faced allegations of unfit conditions and a separate inquiry from federal investigators, only to have its operators say they had “disproven everything.” East Hidalgo Detention Center Warden Elberto E. Bravo has been on paid administrative leave since he learned the FBI and U.S. Marshals Service were conducting an investigation into fraud, bribery and theft allegations. No criminal charges against Bravo have been filed. Sources who know Bravo and are aware of the investigation say it’s unclear whether it involves his job or political influence in the Delta region, given the private prison is one of the area’s largest employers. While Bravo remains on leave, the warden from the Coastal Bend Detention Center in Robstown will serve in the interim, said Richard Harbison, executive vice president at LCS Corrections, the Lafayette, La.-based company that owns and operates the East Hidalgo Detention Center. “Any time there is (a federal inquiry), we bring a warden in from another unit to make sure that if there were mistakes they are not being repeated again,” Harbison said. The separate inquiry into the East Hidalgo Detention Center launched in January, when Robin Whiteley, currently facing illegal re-entry charges in federal court, told Chief U.S. District Judge Ricardo Hinojosa of days without hot water — or any running water — and said it sometimes took days to be seen by a nurse. Hidalgo County Sheriff Lupe Treviño said the investigation into Bravo was concerning, but he has been told the federal investigation does not concern inmate safety.

July 21, 2010 The Monitor
Prisoner housing may be free of charge for this city, but inmate labor isn't freely available. That's the outcome of a dispute between an Edcouch city alderman and the warden of the La Villa detention center over whether Edcouch is entitled to sandbags made by the inmates. Elberto Bravo, the warden of the East Hidalgo Detention Center, a privately run, 900-bed facility in La Villa, said he became incensed when Edcouch Mayor Pro Tem Eddy Gonzalez threatened to write a letter to the warden's supervisors because inmates didn't make sandbags for Edcouch residents when Hurricane Alex approached. Gonzalez says no letter was ever written by the city to Bravo's bosses — City Manager P.R. Avila said the same during Tuesday's city meeting — but that he was upset that prison-made sandbags weren't available this year like they were for 2008's Hurricane Dolly. The apparent misunderstanding nearly led the warden to end his policy of housing cash-strapped Edcouch's prisoners for free, which could have forced the city to release people arrested on suspicion of driving while intoxicated and other charges with a summons to show up at court. "I don't need Edcouch, but Edcouch needs us," said Bravo, who manages the La Villa facility and oversees two others detention centers in South Texas that are operated by LCS Corrections Services Inc., the largest privately held corrections company in the United States. "It's not costing these cities in the Delta area one penny to house these individuals here." Bravo, a long-time corrections officer, often puts inmates from the U.S. Marshals Service — one agency that contracts to use the private prison and allows him to use its detainees for labor — to work on special tasks. He cooks turkeys and other food for special events in neighboring cities, and he made 4,000 sandbags for Edcouch residents when Hurricane Dolly made landfall two years ago, he said. But when Hurricane Alex turned this way before the Fourth of July, he committed to make sandbags for Elsa and Hidalgo County Precinct 1, which delivered sand by the truckload to the facility off State Highway 107. When Gonzalez called him to demand that he also make sandbags for Edcouch residents, Bravo refused to do so because of his other commitments, he said. The warden said that's when Gonzalez threatened to write a letter to the company's corporate office in Lafayette, La. Gonzalez said he was upset sandbags weren't made for Edcouch like they were for other entities, but he added that he never wrote a letter to LCS to complain about the warden's approach. "I'm a little discontent, but I have no say-so over what the prison does," said Gonzalez, who hinted at prior political issues with the warden but declined to say what they were. "I wish he would have (made sandbags) for Edcouch and La Villa — small communities like ours." He also said he thought the warden's warning that he would stop housing the city's prisoners at the detention facility for free was based on business, not sandbags. The city was set to approve a new contract with the East Hidalgo Detention Center in which it would have to pay the going rate of $50 for each day an inmate stays there. With an average of about six Edcouch prisoners housed at the detention center each week, the bill would have topped at least $2,000 each month. But Alderman Noe Garcia said the warden decided to scrap the new contract after he and other elected officials in the city called to make amends. The city will now be required to cover any medical costs the detention center incurs, but the warden said he won't charge them the daily rate. "People need to understand that this is at no cost to the city," Bravo said. "Even if the letter got to the corporate office, they're not paying for our services. It's being provided free to them."

October 23, 2006 Houston Chronicle
One of the five illegal immigrants who escaped from a privately run South Texas jail along with a former police officer surrendered to federal agents at a border checkpoint, officials said Monday. Joel Armando Mata-Castro, a 31-year-old Mexican citizen, walked up to the checkpoint Sunday night and identified himself to Customs and Border Protection officers, who identified him as a fugitive on federal escape charges, CBP spokesman Felix Garza said. Mata-Castro was being held at the Cameron County Jail. He's the only inmate captured after they escaped from the East Hidalgo Detention Center in La Villa on Sept. 19 by overpowering a guard with a homemade knife and gaining access to several exit doors. Authorities have said they suspected the men had crossed the border into Mexico, about 20 miles away. The five illegal immigrants are alleged members of the drug gang Raza Unida. Former McAllen police officer Francisco Meza-Rojas, the supposed ringleader of the escapees, was two weeks away from trial on drug-trafficking charges.

October 11, 2006 The Monitor
The private prison from which six inmates escaped last month has repeatedly violated state standards, according to inspection reports from the Texas prison board. The most recent inspection, conducted eight days after the escape, cites the prison for employing too few guards, adding an unauthorized number of bunks and keeping unlicensed guards on the payroll. Since LCS Correctional Services took over the Eastern Hidalgo Detention Center in 2001, the prison has come out clean in only two of its annual inspections. LCS spokesman Richard Harbison said the violations were not intentional and that they had fixed all the problems. "We are back in compliance," he said. The latest infractions shed new light on the persistently troubled La Villa prison, which has struggled with staffing and inmate security for years. LCS President Patrick LeBlanc told The Monitor in previous interviews that the La Villa prison staffed enough guards, even though a U.S. Marshals spokesman said that was not the case. The state conducted an emergency review after last month’s escape, when an 18-year-old guard said he was overpowered by one of the inmates and stuffed into a closet. He has since been fired. That inspection cited the prison for a third time for not employing enough guards. The jail commission did not say in the documents what the actual ratio of guards to prisoner was. It also found several guards were working with expired licenses or no license at all. Harbison said the prison had a policy of not applying for licenses until guards completed two weeks of work. The warden didn’t want to waste the $100 application fee for a Texas jailer’s license until he knew guards would stay, he said. That practice has since stopped, he said. And since the emergency inspection the guards with expired licenses have been fired, he said.

October 5, 2006 The Monitor
Three people, including a guard, have been arrested in connection with the prison break in which six inmates escaped more than two weeks ago. Prison commissary officer Joseph Paul Llanos, Martin Angel Villarreal Jr., and Magdalena Peña, wife of one of the escapees, were arrested last week in connection with the escape from the Eastern Hidalgo Detention Center in La Villa on Sept 19., according to court documents obtained Wednesday. The six inmates, including a former McAllen police officer accused of running a family drug smuggling ring, are still on the loose and are most likely hiding in Mexico, according to authorities. They are considered armed and dangerous. The five other inmates who escaped with the former police officer are repeat immigration offenders known as members of Raza Unida, a drug smuggling gang based out of Corpus Christi. Information compiled from the three criminal complaints recently filed in federal court paint two of the prisoners, Enrique Peña-Saenz, 38, and the former police officer, Francisco Meza-Rojas, 41, as planning the escape from the inside. The U.S. Attorney’s Office in Houston would not comment on the case because the investigation is ongoing. But a spokesman for the company that runs the prison, LCS Correctional Services, said that Llanos knew at least one of the inmates before they were housed at La Villa. "One of our policies is that if a guard recognizes someone they know in the past they need to report it," said LCS spokesman Richard Harbison. Llanos had not reported knowing any of the inmates, he said. But under questioning after the escape, Llanos admitted to U.S. Marshals that two weeks before the escape he smuggled a cell phone and charger to Meza-Rojas, according to a criminal complaint. Some time after, Llanos smuggled in a pair of pliers that he handed to Meza-Rojas, according to the complaint. Those pliers were later used to cut through at least three fences, including an electrified one that someone had turned off, though the complaint didn’t specify who may have done that. By the time the six inmates had reached the fences, they had subdued 18-year-old prison guard Enrique Zepeda and stuffed him in a closet. Once they made it outside, they split up into at least three groups after crossing a levee east of the prison. Search dogs traced the inmates’ scent to State Highway 107, which runs east of the prison. Meza-Rojas used the cell phone that had been smuggled in to him to arrange someone to pick him up at the highway, according to the complaint. "Everything points that these guys are in Mexico," said Joe Magallan, the U.S. Marshal’s McAllen-based spokesman. "These guys are too scared to be crossing back into the United States." Marshals immediately began investigating Villarreal after the prison break because three of his business cards had been found in the eight-man pod where the six inmates where held. One of the cards had Enrique Peña’s name and home phone number on it. Villarreal, according to the complaint, had visited Peña in prison two weeks before the escape and listed himself as Peña’s compadre in the log book. Marshals believe he delivered the cell phone, wire cutters and $200 to Llanos during two different visits to the prison, the last one in August. Llanos was arrested Sept. 23, and Villarreal on Sept. 25. They were each charged with aiding and abetting Meza-Rojas’ escape. It wasn’t clear why they were not charged in connection with the other prisoners’ escapes. As for Peña’s wife, Magdalena, she told U.S. Marshals her husband told of her of the escape plans some time in August. He told her someone would give her $100 so she could pay the man who would smuggle in the cell phone. She met an unknown older white man later that day in Mission in front of Foy’s Supermarket. He handed her $100 and instructed her to give the money to Villarreal. Magdalena Peña was also arrested Sept. 25. She was also only charged with aiding and abetting Meza-Rojas’ escape. The other inmates are Fernando Garza-Cruz, 20; Joel Armando Mata-Castro, 31; Vicente Mendiola-Garcia, 34; and Saul Leonardo Salazar-Aguirre, 24. LCS Correctional Services has made a series of personnel changes since the escape. Zepeda, the young guard who the inmates overpowered, was fired for not following policy, Harbison said. The prison spokesman said Zepeda opened a control room door, unwittingly letting the six inmates escape. He has not been criminally charged, though, and the company believes he did not know of the plot. Zepeda, who was employed shortly after his high school graduation three months before, had undergone on-the-job training but had not attended mandatory training at the Hidalgo County Sheriff’s Academy. New guards must take the course within a year of hire. Harbison said there are at least 20 other employees, 13 percent of all La Villa guards, at the prison who are like Zepeda and have yet to undergo the academy training. The company has closed its investigation and is now implementing a series of security policy changes, he said. The chief of security at the prison was also demoted, he said.

September 23, 2006 KRIS TV
A control box for the electrical fence surrounding a private jail was tampered with before six federal inmates escaped this week and may have kept the alarm from sounding, an official with the company that runs the jail said Friday. Richard Harbison, co-owner of LCS Corrections Services Inc., of Lafayette, La., said an internal investigation revealed tampering with an outside control box. He also said there were wiring problems with a control box inside the East Hidalgo Detention Center. Meanwhile, two employees were placed on paid leave pending the investigation into Tuesday night's escape of a former police officer facing drug charges and five alleged members of a drug gang. All six remained at large Friday.

September 23, 2006 The Monitor
The 18-year-old guard overseeing the six inmates who escaped from the local prison Tuesday had been on the job less than three months and had not yet undergone a training course mandated for Texas jailers. Enrique Zepeda was one of 27 guards on duty Tuesday night when the six inmates threatened him with a foot-long homemade knife, tied him up and stuffed him in a closet. They then escaped through several inside doors and layers of outside fencing to make their way out of the prison complex. The escapees, who included five prison gang members and a former McAllen police officer accused of running a drug smuggling ring, were still on the loose Friday. Zepeda — who began work at the Eastern Hidalgo County Detention Center this summer just after his high school graduation — was slated to attend the next round of training at the Hidalgo County Sheriff’s Academy, said Richard Harbison, a spokesman for the company that runs the private prison. The Texas Commission on Jails gives guards a year after their hiring date to complete the training, which at the Hidalgo County Sheriff’s Academy lasts three weeks. As is standard for all guards, Zepeda spent two weeks shadowing a more experienced officer when he first began at the prison, Harbison said. Michael Gilbert, a professor of criminal justice at the University of Texas-San Antonio, called formal guard training key to prison security. “The training is critical. The lack of training, it presents a clear liability for the organization.” Publicly run prisons are exempt from lawsuits claiming negligence for failure to adequately train prison staff, but private facilities have no such protections, Gilbert said. Harbison, the prison spokesman, said Zepeda’s injuries had not been serious enough to warrant medical treatment. “When we have a guard that’s in that situation — that’s the first thing we check,” he said of injuries sustained during prison breaks. “But we have to move forward with an investigation.” LCS has had ample experience with such situations. According to the Texas Commission on Jails, the company’s Brooks County Detention Center has had two escapes in four years — one in 2002 and another in 2005. The La Villa facility had two escapes in 2000, while it was owned by a different company. But in September 2005, when under LCS management, a prisoner escaped from the parking lot of the McAllen Medical Center after he convinced guard he needed medical attention at the hospital. Another inmate tried the same trick on Wednesday, when he jumped out of an ambulance headed for that same hospital. Hoping to avert any more security breaches, LCS has begun work on a new fence to surround the entire complex and is installing an outside camera system. Both will likely be complete within 10 days, Harbison said on Friday.

September 21, 2006 The Monitor
Prison and law enforcement authorities were investigating Wednesday whether a guard or other staffer at the La Villa detention facility may have helped the six federal inmates who escaped late Tuesday night. The six escapees were housed in a single cell in a minimum-to-medium security building, even though five of them were known to be members of a Corpus Christi-based prison gang known as La Raza Unida, according to local and federal officials. They broke out Tuesday at about 9:45 p.m. by threatening a guard with a homemade knife and then cutting a hole in the electric fence outside. They were still on the loose as of Wednesday night and considered armed and dangerous. Michael Hallett, chairman of the criminal justice department at the University of North Florida in Jacksonville, Fla. and an expert on privately-run prisons, said such facilities face a greater risk of inmates escaping because they are typically understaffed and pay low salaries in order to make profits. These working conditions make for high staff turnover rates, he said. “So, you have poorly trained guards who are too few in number and who are very inexperienced — and that combination of factors makes them susceptible not just to corruption, but also to coercion by the inmates inside,” Hallett said. “That sounds like an inside job,” Hallett said of the circumstances surrounding this week’s escape in La Villa.

September 21, 2006 San Antonio Express-News
The young guard who said he was overpowered by federal inmates at a Valley detention center was one of two employees put on paid leave Thursday as officials investigate how six men escaped. Enrique Zepeda, 18, who has been on the job for three months, said the escape started late Tuesday with a decoy. "They were distracting me to put my guard down for a moment and it worked," he said. A spokesman for Lafayette, La.-based LCS Corrections Services Inc., which owns and operates the East Hidalgo Detention Center in La Villa, confirmed that Zepeda and one other employee were put on paid administrative leave Thursday. All employees will be questioned, said McAllen-based spokesman for the U.S. Marshals, Jose Magallan Jr. "We are looking at all avenues, we are looking to see if it was an inside job," he said.

September 21, 2006 Houston Chronicle
Not enough officers were on duty at a privately owned federal jail when an ex-police officer charged with drug trafficking led five other inmates in a daring escape Tuesday night, a federal marshal overseeing the investigation said Wednesday. The six men broke out of the East Hidalgo Detention Center at 9:40 p.m. Tuesday after using a footlong knife made of plastic to overpower a guard. They managed to get through four jail doors before using bolt cutters or wire snips to cut through two fences. Teams of federal agents and Rio Grande Valley police using helicopters, horses and tracking dogs searched for the escapees late Wednesday but had not found any of them. ''The way we see it, there is lack of security there right now," said Joe Magallan, a deputy with the U.S. Marshals Service. ''There are a lot of safety issues pertaining to that. There's just not enough personnel. More security officers and more detention officers, should be placed there."

September 20, 2006 The Monitor
Federal and local authorities are still looking for six men who escaped from a federal prison last night. The men escaped from the East Hidalgo Detention Center around 9:40 p.m. Tuesday by holding a foot-long, homemade knife to the neck of a prison guard, U.S. Marshals Service spokesman Joe Magallan said. They then tied up the guard and locked him in a room before escaping through the backdoor of the building and using wire cutters to detach an electric fence from the anchor holding it to the ground, Hidalgo County Sheriff Lupe Treviño said. Someone had evidently de-electrified the fence beforehand, Treviño said. The guard was unharmed. The men had been housed in a minimum to medium security building within the prison complex, said Richard Harbison, a spokesman for LCS Correctional Services, the company that runs the private facility. Harbison said this is the first escape from the facility since LCS took it over from the former management company in 2001. That company had gone bankrupt. Treviño stopped short of calling the escape an inside job but said the circumstances were dubious. “From a law enforcement perspective, it appears to be highly suspicious,” he said.

Irwin County detention center
Irwin County, Georgia
Jan 25, 2022 whistleblower.org
Dawn Wooten Discusses Her Experience as a Whistleblower on the New Yorker Radio Hour

WASHINGTON-The New Yorker Radio Hour has released their most recent episode featuring Government Accountability Project's whistleblower client, Dawn Wooten, a former nurse at the Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) Irwin County Detention Center (ICDC) run by private prison company LaSalle Corrections. In September 2020, Wooten blew the whistle publicly about failures at ICDC to protect staff and immigrants in detention from the spread of COVID-19, in addition to concerns that numerous immigrant women were undergoing invasive gynecological procedures without consent. Wooten's shocking disclosures went viral, prompting public outcry, multiple congressional and agency investigations, a class action lawsuit seeking justice for their mistreatment, and DHS Secretary Mayorkas's decision in May 2021 ordering ICE to end its immigration detention contract with ICDC. Yet even as DHS OIG earlier this month issued one report validating many of Ms. Wooten's disclosures, Ms. Wooten is still waiting for findings to be issued by the DHS OIG in her whistleblower retaliation complaint filed more than fifteen months ago. Even though her whistleblowing helped expose and end grotesque abuses, Wooten has suffered ongoing retaliation for making the brave decision to stand up for what is right. Wooten, a single mother of five, was unable to secure work-as a qualified nurse during a pandemic-for months. In the interview, Wooten discusses life since the story broke and what blowing the whistle means to her. "It's like everybody's getting answers but me. And everybody's getting relief but these women. So, we're the only two left hanging in the balance. These women still have scars that they have to carry from here until the end of their time on this earth. And my voice with their bodies paved the way for the decision to be made, so what's holding up? Each day is lost time for me. It's lost time." Dana Gold, Government Accountability Project Senior Counsel and lead counsel for Ms. Wooten commented: "Dawn Wooten's disclosures about some of the most grotesque abuses imaginable demonstrate the power of information provided by whistleblowers to protect the vulnerable and catalyze accountability. But too often we forget that a real person is behind that information, and that person often suffers significant costs for their decision to speak up for what's right. Dawn's story is one of retaliation and resilience and reminds all of us how much we as a society depend on, and need to protect, all whistleblowers."
Jan 8, 2022 whistleblower.org

OIG Report Confirms Whistleblower Claims of Wrongdoing at Irwin County Detention Center

WASHINGTON- Yesterday the Department of Homeland Security's (DHS) Office of Inspector General (OIG) released its final report, "Medical Processes and Communication Protocols Need Improvement at Irwin County Detention Center" outlining Immigration and Customs Enforcement's (ICE) grave shortcomings in medical healthcare at the Irwin County Detention Center (ICDC), an ICE facility owned and operated by LaSalle Corrections, a private prison company. The findings validate disclosures made to the OIG and Congress in September 2020 by Government Accountability Project's client, ICDC nurse Dawn Wooten, as well as ICE detainees, regarding failures to protect workers and immigrants from COVID-19 and inadequate medical care at the rural Georgia facility. While Ms. Wooten's disclosures, and in part, the OIG's report, reveal a toxic and dangerous culture within one ICE detention facility, the findings are symptomatic of an immigration detention system at large that has consistently proven unable to protect both workers and immigrants. Ms. Wooten's whistleblower disclosures, which also included high rates of unnecessary, nonconsensual gynecological procedures performed on women in detention, went viral in September 2020, prompting Congressional investigations and resolutions, a class action lawsuit on behalf of survivors, and international public outcry. Ultimately, DHS Secretary Mayorkas in May 2021 ordered ICE to sever its contract with ICDC, and in September 2021, all remaining immigrant detainees were transferred out of the facility. A separate OIG investigation and audit is being conducted into the processes for approving gynecological procedures at ICDC and for all surgeries across ICE detention facilities. Ms. Wooten's disclosures about ICE's and LaSalle's failure to implement COVID protocols provided vital first-hand examples of the endangerment of workers, immigrants, and the public posed by the spread of COVID in ICE detention-warnings issued at the beginning of the pandemic by DHS's own medical experts. The OIG, while concluding that ICDC "generally complied with CDC and ICE COVID-19 guidance," also detailed several areas in which ICE and ICDC fell woefully short in critical ways. The OIG found that ICDC failed to "adequately implement and enforce social distancing protocols;" that "confusion at the beginning of the pandemic made for a late and inconsistent implementation of mask distribution and wearing;" and that even a year after the beginning of the pandemic, video footage from March 2021 showed "facility staff not wearing masks and social distancing." Further, the OIG found that "CDC and ICE management did not adequately or consistently keep facility employees, ICE staff, and detainees informed of COVID-19 protocols and guidance" and that "detainees reported not being informed of their cohort or quarantine status, their COVID-19 test results, or facility COVID-19 protocols." The OIG's investigation into medical care at ICDC and subsequent findings not only validate Ms. Wooten's disclosures regarding ICDC but are consistent with its earlier findings about failures at other ICE detention facilities to adequately protect workers and immigrants-and thus the public too-from COVID, including at the Richwood Correctional Center, also run by LaSalle. This report should not be viewed as irrelevant because ICDC is closed, but rather as a case study in why this system - locking up immigrants en masse without adequate safeguards during a pandemic - is an ongoing public health disaster. Dana Gold, Government Accountability Project Senior Counsel and lead counsel for Ms. Wooten commented: "We are gratified that the OIG's report largely validates many of the problems disclosed by Ms. Wooten. Yet we remain frustrated that the very whistleblower whose disclosures led to this important report continues to wait for a decision on her whistleblower retaliation complaint filed with the OIG more than fifteen months ago. Ms. Wooten's disclosures prompted DHS to conduct investigations that have resulted in accountability and an end to mismanagement and abuses at ICDC, but Ms. Wooten herself, a single Black mother of five struggling to provide for her family, continues to suffer the adverse effects of retaliation. We hope that the DHS OIG will now take care of the whistleblower who served the public interest by choosing to speak up instead of stay silent." Katie Shepherd, Immigration Counsel for Government Accountability Project stated: "ICDC is not an outlier - it is reflective of a toxic, harmful immigration system lacking accountability. The OIG's recent findings illustrate ICE's and LaSalle's failures to minimize the spread of COVID-19 and safeguard detainees and workers alike from harm not just at ICDC but at ICE facilities across the country. The report adds to the chorus of complaints, expert reports, Congressional investigations, and whistleblower disclosures detailing the extensive and egregious harms caused by the mass incarceration of thousands of individuals in substandard conditions and reflects the critical and immediate need for systemic change."

Dec 7, 2021 thehill.com

ICE doctor may have performed unwanted hysterectomies to defraud DHS

New details from an investigation into a Georgia-based doctor who performed unwanted hysterectomies on migrant women in Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) custody found the man to be "not competent" and indicated he may have performed unnecessary and invasive procedures on patients to inflate payment from the government. A previously unreleased letter caps an investigation into Mahendra Amin, who worked as a contractor in an ICE facility in Georgia and was reported by a nurse in the facility who filed a whistleblower complaint alleging he removed women's uteruses without their consent. "My concern is that he was not competent and simply did the same evaluation and treatment on most patients because that is what he knew how to do, and/or he did tests and treatments that generated a significant amount of reimbursement without benefiting most patients," wrote Tony Ogburn, a doctor asked to review Amin's file as part of a joint investigation by the House Homeland Security Committee and the House Oversight and Reform Committee. Additional letters from the committees Monday ask for a Department of Homeland Security (DHS) briefing on the matter and inquire how the Georgia Composite Medical Board plans to respond. "We are concerned that Dr. Amin may have been performing unnecessary surgical procedures to defraud DHS and the federal government without consequences. We are also concerned that people at other detention facilities may be receiving similarly inappropriate or inadequate medical treatment," the committee wrote in its letter to DHS. Ogburn's letter details a pattern of Amin doing more invasive "D&C" procedures to take samples - rather than doing an in-office biopsy, a less invasive and less expensive procedure.  It was something Ogburn found was part of "a pattern of performing the same surgery . on many patients no matter what their condition was." The review also found almost all ultrasounds conducted by Amin found conditions allegedly requiring surgery. And within those who received surgery under Amin, the review found an unusually large number of patients were deemed to have both endometriosis and adhesions, something Ogburn said was "very unlikely that such a high proportion of patients would have both findings." Ogburn also noted that Amin had the "unusual" practice of preprinting all consent forms and packaging them together. He also found patients were "rarely offered any alternative therapies" for their gynecological issues other than surgery. "Patients that clearly had an indication for hysterectomy as an option did not have that option presented to them. Often evaluation/treatment did not address their primary issue with recommendations for sustainable relief but instead he did a variety of tests and surgery that did them little or no good, and potentially caused harm," Ogburn wrote. DHS in May ended its contract with the facility where Amin worked, which was run by private prison company LaSalle Corrections. But the committees stressed the need for DHS to ensure the same practices aren't being carried out in any other facility. "DHS has thus far identified only two detention facilities as unsuitable for housing ICE detainees after more than six months of review, even though the Committees' investigations have identified serious concerns about many others," they wrote in their joint letter asking DHS for a briefing on the matter. DHS said it is still reviewing detention policies and practices. "In May, Secretary Mayorkas issued a memo directing U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement to close two detention facilities, and ICE has been actively working with the DHS Office for Civil Rights and Civil Liberties, the DHS Office of the Inspector General, and the DHS Office of the Immigration Detention Ombudsman to ensure that detention facilities are held to the appropriate health and safety standards," an agency spokesperson said in a statement. "Secretary Mayorkas continues to evaluate DHS detention policies and will be issuing additional immigration-related policy memos, including memos addressing immigration detention."

October 19, 2021 whistleblower.org
Concerning Results from OSHA Investigation Emphasize Ongoing Dangers from COVID-19 at Irwin County Detention Facility, ICE Detention Generally
WASHINGTON - Today, Government Accountability Project alerted key Congressional offices about the results of an Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) inspection at the Irwin County Detention Center (ICDC), a facility run by private prison company LaSalle Corrections, in Ocilla, Georgia. ICDC held immigrants in the custody of Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) until early September 2021, when ICE severed its contract with ICDC. The OSHA inspection, conducted in December 2020, was prompted by a complaint filed by Government Accountability Project on behalf of a confidential whistleblower regarding the unsafe conditions for both employees and migrants detained at ICDC related to COVID-19. ICDC has long been rife with reports of limited access to medical care, unsafe work practices, and the absence of adequate protections against COVID-19 for detained migrants and workers alike. Many of these concerns were raised by Government Accountability Project client whistleblower Dawn Wooten in disclosures to the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Office of Inspector General and Congress in September 2020. While the ICDC no longer holds immigrants in ICE custody, concerns around lack of COVID protections and protocols remain as the private prison continues to hold non-immigrant detainees. The congregate settings of prisons and ICE detention facilities alike are known vectors for the spread of COVID, a virus which does not distinguish between workers, immigrants, or the local communities near detention facilities at risk of severe illness and death. The OSHA findings show systemic and repeated failures by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), ICE and LaSalle Corrections to address the hazardous conditions at ICDC related to the spread of COVID-19, and reveal flaws in OSHA's own ability to oversee workers' health and safety. The OSHA investigation confirms several troubling themes including: Weaknesses in OSHA's inspection and citation process expose a lack of meaningful oversight mechanisms available to the thousands of individuals who labor in the ICE detention system, a known source of spread for COVID-19. The COVID-19 pandemic continues to be a serious threat to prisoners in ICDC, the individuals who work at ICDC, and the surrounding community. Findings from OSHA's recent investigation at ICDC reflect systemic racism in the U.S. immigration system that causes disproportionate harm to Black, Indigenous and other people of color (BIPOC).The concerns raised by the confidential whistleblower and subsequent OSHA inspection reflect a pressing need for a system-wide investigation into the ongoing lack of critical safeguards to combat the spread of COVID-19 to workers, detainees and local communities within and in the proximity of congregate settings such as prisons and ICE detention facilities. On July 13, 2020, LaSalle leadership testified before Congress that they were complying with all required health protocols. Yet over a year later, OSHA's investigation and findings prove otherwise. Samantha Feinstein, Government Accountability Project Staff Attorney and counsel for the confidential whistleblower, stated: "To our knowledge, the OSHA inspection at the ICDC is the first federal OSHA inspection of an ICE detention facility since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic. Although we are pleased that OSHA issued citations and fined LaSalle Corrections, we are also disheartened by the leniency toward LaSalle Corrections and concerned by the many challenges that we encountered during OSHA's investigation process while representing our client. Two ICDC personnel have died of COVID-19. Many others contracted the virus. The lack of adequate oversight and accountability of ICDC remains a matter of life and death and leaves workers and detainees without any real avenues for redress." Dana Gold, Government Accountability Project Senior Counsel and attorney for the confidential whistleblower, stated: "OSHA's failure to meaningfully protect workers at ICDC or other ICE detention facilities from unsafe conditions amounts to a failure to protect immigrants and the public as well. ICE and private prison companies like LaSalle Corrections have repeatedly demonstrated their inability and unwillingness to responsibly care for the workers and the people in their custody even before the dangerous pandemic. We hope that Congress acts with alacrity to address the continued threat posed from COVID-19 and the substandard conditions in ICE detention facilities and to strengthen OSHA's ability to fulfill its mandate of protecting worker health and safety." Contact: Andrew Harman, Communications Director, Email: ndrewh@whistleblower.org Phone: (202) 926-3304 Government Accountability Project is the nation's leading whistleblower protection organization. Through litigating whistleblower cases, publicizing concerns and developing legal reforms, Government Accountability Project's mission is to protect the public interest by promoting government and corporate accountability. Founded in 1977, Government Accountability Project is a nonprofit, nonpartisan advocacy organization based in Washington, D.C.

May 20 2021 theintercept.com

ICE DETENTION CENTER SHUTTERED FOLLOWING REPEATED ALLEGATIONS OF MEDICAL MISCONDUCT Immigrant women held at the private prison alleged a pattern of medical procedures, including hysterectomies, without proper consent.

THE DEPARTMENT OF Homeland Security announced on Thursday the agency will be shutting down the controversial immigration prison in Georgia where dozens of detained immigrant women were subjected to nonconsensual gynecological procedures, including hysterectomies. The memo, sent by Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas, instructs U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement to terminate the contract with the Irwin County Detention Center in Ocilla, Georgia, according to the Washington Post, along with another detention center in Massachusetts. Both facilities are under federal investigation for detention practices. “This victory, brought about through years of organizing and exposing the abuses, is momentous,” said Azadeh Shahshahani, legal and advocacy director of Project South, a civil rights organization based in Atlanta. “This victory, brought about through years of organizing and exposing the abuses, is momentous.” The detention center, run by the private prison company LaSalle Corrections, was the focus of widespread criticism last fall when Dawn Wooten, a nurse and subsequently whistleblower at the facility, came forward with allegations of pervasive medical neglect and misconduct. “For over a decade, LaSalle and ICE have ignored, threatened, and even attacked immigrants at Irwin in an attempt to silence them,” said Priyanka Bhatt, a staff attorney at Project South. “Today matters because the people suffering abuse at Irwin have been seen.” In her whistleblower allegations, Wooten detailed how the facility’s staff ignored serious medical complaints and failed to take proper precautions against Covid-19 both for the staff and the people detained at the prison. Wooten also alleged detained women were subjected to hysterectomies and other, sometimes unnecessary, gynecological procedures performed without proper informed consent, allegations that spurred widespread international criticism, including congressional investigations. According to the Washington Post, Mayorkas’s memo said Homeland Security “will not tolerate the mistreatment of individuals in civil immigration detention or substandard conditions of detention.” In a statement to the Post, Mayorkas said, “DHS detention facilities and the treatment of individuals in those facilities will be held to our health and safety standards. Where we discover they fall short, we will continue to take action as we are doing today.” (ICE and LaSalle Corrections did not immediately respond to requests for comment about the closure memo.) Mayorkas’s memo closing Irwin also instructed ICE not to renew its contract with the Bristol County immigration detention center in Massachusetts. In December, the Massachusetts attorney general said the Bristol County Sheriff’s Office, which runs the facility, violated the civil rights of detained immigrants last year, when officials fired pepper spray and pepper projectiles and illegally unleashed dogs on detainees who were demanding Covid-19 protections. The closures of the Irwin and Bristol detention centers come as the total number of people detained by ICE has increased in recent months, to over 20,000 as of May 14, a high for the Biden administration, but still far lower than the more than 55,000 people who were detained at any given time during the peak months of 2019. It is not clear when the facilities will be officially shuttered, but the Post reported that the Bristol contract would be terminated immediately and DHS would work to sever its contract with Irwin as quickly as possible. “The closure of the Irwin County Detention Center marks a decisive victory in the long war against white supremacy in the U.S. south and across the globe,” said Kevin Caron, a steering committee member of Georgia Detention Watch. “While they have yet to receive justice, today those who suffered at Irwin have been vindicated. The abuses at Irwin are emblematic of our urgent need to end immigrant detention and abolish ICE.” LAST SEPTEMBER, Wooten blew the whistle about conditions at the facility amid the Covid-19 pandemic, first reported by The Intercept. With the assistance of attorneys from the Government Accountability Project, Wooten sent a letter to Congress detailing “misconduct and failures to provide medical care in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic.” With Project South, she also submitted a complaint to the Department of Homeland Security Office of Inspector General. Part of the complaint said that women in detention were being subjected to often unnecessary gynecological procedures conducted without proper consent. Later, in a closed-door meeting with senators on Capitol Hill, attorneys confirmed at least 57 women were subject to the reproductive-system procedures since 2018. The story, especially the gynecological procedures allegedly performed without consent, was widely covered. Public officials demanded an investigation. A number of the women subjected to the gynecological procedures were subsequently deported, even as advocates demanded that ICE cease the deportations of victims and shutter the facility. The DHS Office of Inspector General launched an investigation into the allegations; its findings have not yet been released. (The DHS OIG also launched an investigation into prenatal and gynecological care in other ICE facilities, the findings of which have also not been released.) Last December, 14 women filed a class-action lawsuit alleging abuse during their time imprisoned in Irwin. The lawsuit claims that the women received nonconsensual procedures performed by Mahendra Amin, a doctor based in rural Georgia who was sent patients from the nearby detention center. Both Amin and his attorney have repeatedly denied any wrongdoing. The women claim that ICE and Irwin County Detention Center officials were made aware by detainees of alleged misconduct. “In many instances, the medically unindicated gynecological procedures Respondent Amin performed on Petitioners amounted to sexual assault,” the lawsuit says. “After Petitioners spoke out, or attempted to speak out, about their abuse, Respondents retaliated against them in order to silence them.” ICE stopped sending immigrant women to Amin after the allegations of nonconsensual and unnecessary procedures came to light. The FBI is currently investigating Amin for a series of unnecessary, rough, or abusive procedures, according to a report in Prism by Tina Vásquez earlier this month. Last week, a group of 29 formerly detained immigrants sent a letter to President Joe Biden denouncing abusive practices in immigration detention.  In the letter, they also demanded that the Irwin County Detention Center be shut down and all contracts with LaSalle and other for-profit detention companies be terminated. “Many women faced retaliation from ICE, with some even being deported to prevent them from testifying in any investigations, a tactic frequently employed by ICE to silence and disappear its victims,” the letter reads. The shuttering of Irwin does not mean that people currently detained in the facility will be released from detention. ANOTHER DETENTION CENTER in rural Georgia, the Stewart Detention Center, has received an influx of women detainees since December 2020, many of them transfers from Irwin. Stewart, which has exclusively detained men for over a decade, is one of the largest ICE detention centers in the country. It is also, according to advocates and nongovernmental trackers, one of the deadliest. “Transfer of women from one corporate-run detention center with a track record of human rights violations to another deadly one is not going to get ICE off the hook.” Stewart, which is run by the private prison company CoreCivic, has come under fire by, among others, the DHS Office of Inspector General, for alleged violent abuse against people detained there. Since 2017, eight detainees at Stewart have died. Two men died by suicide after being held in solitary confinement for prolonged periods of time, despite diagnoses of mental health disorders. During the Covid-19 pandemic, The Intercept reported that detainees in Stewart demanding improved medical care were pepper-sprayed twice in two weeks by a special unit of private correctional officers akin to a SWAT team. The Intercept also reported that three detainees in wheelchairs were hurled to the ground after asking for better medical care amid the pandemic. According to ICE’s tracker, four people detained at Stewart died from complications after contracting Covid-19. “We will not rest however until Stewart is also shut down,” said Shahshahani, of Project South. “Transfer of women from one corporate-run detention center with a track record of human rights violations to another deadly one is not going to get ICE off the hook.”

Nov 26, 2020 thehill.com

House Democrats subpoena private prison operator in forced hysterectomy case

The House Oversight and Reform and the Homeland Security committees on Wednesday subpoenaed the head of the private prison company that operates a detention center where women were allegedly sent to receive unwanted gynecological procedures. Rep. Bennie Thompson (D-Miss.), chairman of Homeland Security panel, and Rep. Carolyn Maloney (D-N.Y.), chairwoman of the Oversight panel, issued the subpoena for LaSalle Corrections Executive Director Rodney Cooper to appear before the committees on Dec. 9. “Despite the seriousness of the allegations taking place at their facility, LaSalle has stonewalled our Committees since we began our investigation in September,” Thompson and Maloney said in a statement. “They have provided us no documents, refused to share their contract with ICE, and have consistently fed us conflicting information," they added. The accusations against LaSalle, stemming from a whistleblower complaint at the Irwin County, Ga., detention center, allege that more than 43 immigrant detainees received unwarranted or unwanted treatment, including hysterectomies that left some of them sterile. The Department of Justice on Tuesday filed a consent motion in court, agreeing to hold the deportation of detainees involved in the case while investigations are concluded. Since the whistleblower allegations were made public in September, Democratic lawmakers have unsuccessfully sought further information on the case, according to Thompson and Maloney. "LaSalle has refused to take even the most minimal steps to comply with the Committees’ requests for documents, and company employees have provided conflicting information to the Committees about its steps to locate and preserve documents," they wrote in a letter to Cooper accompanying the subpoena. Representatives for LaSalle could not be reached for comment, as the company does not list contact information publicly.

Jack Harwell Detention Center, McLennan County Texas
31 Aug 13, 2019 wacotrib.com
Fresh paint, fresh faces as county prepares Harwell jail takeover

Fresh coats of paint and fresh faces of leadership are arriving at Jack Harwell Detention Center, two months ahead of the Oct. 1 takeover by McLennan County Sheriff’s Office officials. McLennan County Jail inmates began laying down primer and painting dormitory cells at Harwell on Monday, following work this month to clean the cells. Staff promotions and plans for new administrative rankings for Harwell have fallen into place as McLennan County prepares to reclaim the jail from a private contractor. “I think we will be ready,” said Major Ricky Armstrong, jail administrator. “We’ve been working to get staff in place and get the jail cleaned up so it is fresh and ready for us to move in to the jail.” On midnight Sunday, a total of 768 inmates were housed at McLennan County Jail. Harwell housed 574 inmates, including 335 McLennan County inmates and 202 federal inmates. Harwell was built in 2010 and was controlled by Louisiana-based, for-profit LaSalle Corrections. The jail will be operated by the McLennan County Sheriff’s Office on Oct. 1 after LaSalle opted not to renew its contract with the county in May. The decision not to renew the contract came after the county first saw an increase in payments made to LaSalle last year, from about $6.1 million to $8 million. LaSalle failed three Texas Commission of Jail Standards inspections in August 2018, November 2018 and last March, resulting in the state placing a remedial order on the facility. Armstrong, who has overseen operations at the McLennan County Jail since 2015, was promoted from a captain to the rank of major in preparation to oversee both jails by October. He said Sheriff Parnell McNamara promoted a new administration team to oversee 115 employees, including jailers, medical staff and civilians at the Harwell facility. “The sheriff asked the (McLennan County Commissioners) Court to change the rank structure to address the double responsibility, double amount of inmate capacity,” Armstrong said. Mike Garrett, a former lieutenant at the county jail, was promoted to captain and will oversee Harwell jail. His colleague, Karen Anderson, was promoted from lieutenant to captain and will act as an assistant jail administrator at McLennan County Jail. “Oh, I think there will be a little separation anxiety, but we are still going to work together, just be in separate buildings,” Garrett said. Additional staff promotions were made this month, including promoting five former jail sergeants to lieutenants, including John Phillips, Casey Boehme, Joel Barrientos and Sue Tweedle. Lieutenants will be split between the two jails to help control any issues that may arise after the transition. Harwell staff was placed back in compliance in May, shortly after the decision was made to turn control back to the council. Garrett said his plans include keeping Harwell in compliance. “I am very excited for the challenge, I want to keep it flowing to keep up with inspections and keeping it in compliance,” he said. “We are going to run it as efficiently as we can. Compliance has been an issue, so we need to get everything cleaned up and keep it in compliance.” McLennan County trusty inmates worked at the neighboring jail that is connected to Harwell through its kitchen. Armstrong said while the takeover is a lot of work, he believes the staff in place for both facilities will be a success. “This week we are cleaning the cells that are empty, doing some painting and some light maintenance work just to get the Harwell jail looking better,” Armstrong said. “I don’t know if we will have it all painted before Oct. 1 when we move in, but we will be able to move inmates to get the rest of it painted as soon as possible. County staff plans to expand mental health services with the move into Harwell and offer reintegration programs. He said it may take six months to a year to establish programs and get them running, but the move will be a benefit. “I think we will definitely be ready for October, I think,” Armstrong said.

Jul 13, 2019 kwtx.com

More correctional officers needed for local jail takeover
WACO, Texas (KWTX) The McLennan County Sheriff's Office is in need of correctional officers ahead of taking over the neighboring private jail in the Fall. The Sheriff's office wants to hire an extra 100 correctional officers to work at the Jack Harwell Detention Center by Oct. 1--that's when the contract between the county and La Salle Corrections expires. "It's going to take a lot of work," said Capt. Ricky Armstrong, Jail Administrator. "We're just ready to get over there and start seeing what it's going to take to run it." Armstrong said they did a job study on Harwell to determine how many officers they needed and are presenting it to county commissioners as they go into budget talks. "We're looking forward to it, I think it's going to be a good thing for the county, for the Sheriff's Office, and I also think we're going to save the county quite a bit of money," said Sheriff Parnell McNamara. "We're almost doubling the number of inmates that we have." Currently, the county jail has around 1,000 inmates and Harwell has around 700, about half of which are federal. "If we get to house the federal inmates in the facility that's already there, with that revenue and our budget, we should save somewhere between $500,000 and $1.5 million by operating it ourselves." The moves after a series of failed state inspections (three in seven months) by Harwell and contract hikes (last year La Salle's contract spiked by $2 million). Technically, La Salle ended the contract, sending the county a letter of non-renewal in the Spring. "In negotiations with La Salle, they agreed that if we wanted our facility back, then they would send us a letter stating they didn't want to renew the contract," said Armstrong. "It's just cleaner that way." "It's cheaper for the county to run the whole damn thing," said Chief Deputy David Kilcrease. "We can pay our employees more than they pay their employees and we can run it better than they can." The county jail hasn't failed inspection by the Texas Commission on Jail Standards since 2008. "We're pretty strict on what we do and how we do it," said Armstrong. "We try to stay in compliance." Part of the state inspection process is the physical working of the jail; Armstrong says they'll only have to do some painting and minor maintenance. "Walking through the facility, everything looks good, it's operational, everything's operating now, there's no major mechanical issues that we're aware of at this time," said Armstrong. The biggest challenge so far, Armstrong says, is hiring and the 'unknowns.' "The employees at Jack Harwell, the unknown of if they're going to work for us, they're all upset, and just the unknown, the uncertainty is scary for people," said Armstrong. "Now, for us, it's just making sure we have enough people." To do that, MCSO's jail division is hosting a hiring event July 15 from 9am-12pm at Workforce Solutions for the Heart of Texas, 1416 S. New Rd., where on-site interviews will be conducted for people who fill out applications prior to the event. Applicants should be 18 or older with a high school diploma or GED, have a calm temper, and be good with people. "To hire 100 correctional officers in a short time is tough," said Armstrong. "We hope to start hiring people in August to be fully staffed by October." Armstrong is hoping many of hires will come from the pool of correctional officers currently working at Harwell. "We've offered the officers that currently work there jobs," said Armstrong. "We've had, approximately, between 30 and 50 officers come over and say they're interested, and we're going to hire all those that we can." McNamara is confident his command staff at the jail will get the job done and help the Harwell 'straighten up.' "We're going to do everything we can to minimize problems at that jail, and there's been some in the past, over and over, we're gonna do the best we can to eliminate those and run the jail properly and we know how to do that," said McNamara. "We have administrative staff that has been at the jail for 25-30 years, so they know what they're doing, they know how to run the jail, they know how it should be run." The Sheriff's office is working on a new organizational structure for the takeover including the promotion of two people, one to head each jail, who will report to Armstrong. With the addition of Harwell, Armstrong says he sees endless opportunities for the county and its inmates. "I'm really looking forward to opening up some more programs because we're out of space in this facility," said Armstrong. "It's got a lot of classrooms." He hopes to use Harwell's nine classrooms to provide more reintegration opportunities for inmates through programs like parenting classes and teaching vocational skills. "I'm looking forward to the space and being able to move people around and have these classes," said Armstrong. They're also looking forward to hiring the staff to make those programs possible. McNamara says working at the jail is a good stepping stone for other positions in the field. "If you want to go into law enforcement, now is a good time," said McNamara. "We want you on the Posse!"

Oct 19, 2018 wacotrib.com
County officials investigating inmate death at private jail
The McLennan County Sheriff’s Office is investigating the death of an inmate at the Jack Harwell Detention Center, a privately operated jail owned by McLennan County. Sheriff Parnell McNamara said the 53-year-old inmate died Friday night from what appears to be natural causes, but investigators are waiting for autopsy results to be returned from the Southwestern Institute of Forensic Sciences in Dallas. While no administrators from LaSalle Corrections, which operates the jail, returned phone messages Wednesday, a spokesman for the U.S. Marshals Service identified the inmate as Lorenzo Ochoa-Figueroa, of Zacatecas, Mexico. The spokesman said Ochoa-Figueroa was being held on a U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement detainer for illegal entry into the U.S. LaSalle Corrections contracts with the federal government to house its prisoners. McLennan County Justice of the Peace Brian Richardson, who ordered the autopsy, said Ochoa-Figueroa’s death appears caused by natural causes. He said there were no signs of foul play or trauma. It could be from five to seven weeks before a preliminary autopsy report is returned, Richardson said. Ochoa-Figueroa’s fiancee, Micaela Gomez, 54, of Taylor, said Ochoa-Figueroa had lived in Texas off and on for 20 years but was a Mexican citizen. She said he was jailed in June on a domestic violence charge against her and was placed in the Williamson County Jail until he was transferred to the Jack Harwell Detention Center eight days ago on the ICE detainer. They had lived together two years, and she considers Ochoa-Figueroa her common-law husband, Gomez said. She said a deputy called her at 2:30 a.m. Saturday to inform her of his death. “They didn’t tell me nothing,” Gomez said. “They just said he passed away.” She said after Ochoa-Figueroa was jailed, officials told him he had high blood pressure and he was taking medication. She said she suffers from lung cancer and he was worried about that. The combination of her illness coupled with his incarceration and likely deportation perhaps produced more stress than Ochoa-Figueroa could bear, she said. “He was a very sweet man,” Gomez said. “He was a hard-working man and he was a good guy.” Jail officials notified the Texas Commission on Jail Standards of the in-custody death, as required, commission executive director Brandon Wood said. He declined additional comment because of the pending investigation. The suicide death of an inmate in November 2015 led to the indictment of three guards at the Jack Harwell Detention Center and a federal wrongful death lawsuit against the three former officers and Southwestern Correctional, parent company of LaSalle Corrections. The parents of Michael Martinez filed the lawsuit last year after their 25-year-old son, who had attempted suicide two months before he was jailed, died at the private jail on State Highway 6. Three officers, Michael Wayne Crittenden, Milton Edward Walker and Christopher David Simpson, each were indicted on a charge of tampering with government records, a third-degree felony punishable by up to 10 years in prison, after an investigation into Martinez’s death. Officials allege the former guards altered documents after Martinez’s death to make it appear they conducted scheduled inmate checks in the hours leading to the suicide. Surveillance video showed that Crittenden, Walker and Simpson all lied about conducting head counts in N-Wing in the early morning hours before Martinez’s death, according to records filed in the case. The criminal case against each former officer remains pending, as does the civil lawsuit.

Sep 8, 2018 texasobserver.org
Waco Immigrant Mom Sues Private Prison Corporation over Alleged Sexual Abuse
Estela Fajardo, an immigrant mom and business owner, is suing a private prison corporation and a prison guard over sexual abuse she alleges occurred at Waco’s Jack Harwell Detention Center over four months beginning late last year. Thanks to a nasty tangle of the criminal and immigration systems, the 46-year-old Fajardo has been locked up and apart from her 3-year-old son for more than two and a half years. Fajardo, who came to the United States at 14 and is undocumented, was a member of the Central Texas Hispanic Chamber of Commerce and ran a moving company, a small cattle ranch and two hair salons in Waco before her legal troubles began. The Waco Tribune-Herald once wrote that she “represent[ed] the American Dream.” Fajardo currently sits in the McLennan County Jail, adjacent to the Jack Harwell facility, facing a state jail felony theft charge. The charge stems from allegations that she knowingly purchased stolen goods in January 2016, a claim that she’s consistently denied. She can’t bond out, because an immigration detainer means she’d be transferred immediately into federal custody and potentially deported away from her four kids. Her civil suit, filed Friday in a McLennan County district court, demands between $200,000 and $1 million for the “mental anguish” Fajardo has suffered due to a guard’s “inappropriate remarks of a sexual nature” and offensive physical “contact.” Defendants in the suit include the alleged perpetrator and LaSalle Corrections, the private prison company that operates the Jack Harwell facility. Fajardo detailed her allegations in a report she submitted to McLennan County officials in March. Fajardo wrote that a female guard, employed by LaSalle, made sexual comments toward her, inappropriately touched her breast and buttock and asked her to “flash her” during multiple incidents between November and March. “I felt hopeless and desperate, depressed, scared, worried, embarrassed to even talk about this situation,” Fajardo wrote. “I could not get any sleep for a long time.” The 816-bed for-profit Harwell facility, which primarily holds inmates for the county and the U.S. Marshals Service, has faced similar controversy before. Since 2013, at least three LaSalle guards have been convicted for sexual misconduct, and LaSalle was also sued over sexual assault in 2015. Last month, the facility failed its third unannounced inspection in four years. LaSalle and the accused guard did not respond to requests for comment. County officials have denied Fajardo’s allegations. In a May report, county investigator Kimberly King concluded that Fajardo’s claims were all unsubstantiated or unfounded, citing the account of another jail official and a lack of witnesses. In June, McLennan County Chief Deputy David Kilcrease told local news outlets, “It’s obvious here that the whole thing is to try to enhance her immigration status.” Fajardo, who faces potential deportation when her criminal case resolves, could qualify for a visa for victims of crime based on the guard’s alleged sexual abuse. Gerald Villarrial, Fajardo’s criminal defense attorney, called the county’s investigation an instance of the fox guarding the henhouse. McLennan County owns the Jack Harwell facility and pays LaSalle Corrections to hold inmates there. “Someone other than the Sheriff’s Department should have done that investigation,” he said, citing the Texas Rangers and FBI as possibilities.

Sep 5, 2018 wacotrib.com
Former inmate sues guard, private jail corporation over alleged abuses
A former inmate at McLennan County’s privately operated jail alleges she suffered physical and emotional abuse at the hands of a guard during more than two years of incarceration there. Estela Fajardo, jailed on a felony theft charge and an immigration hold, is seeking from $200,000 to $1 million in a lawsuit filed Friday in 74th State District Court against Southwestern Correctional, parent company of LaSalle Corrections, and LaSalle guard Charis Kendricks. Kendricks and Ryan Horvath in the LaSalle legal department at corporate headquarters in Ruston, Louisiana, did not return phone messages Friday. LaSalle contracts with McLennan County to operate the Jack Harwell Detention Center in Waco. The lawsuit alleges that Kendricks “made inappropriate remarks of a sexual nature to plaintiff, and on more than one occasion intentionally or knowingly made contact with plaintiff’s person.” “Plaintiff was emotionally and physically upset by the inappropriate touching of her body by Kendricks, and by the inappropriate remarks by Kendricks, and plaintiff suffered embarrassment, humiliation and mental anguish as a result of such contact and remarks, all of which were offensive and insulting,” the lawsuit alleges. Fajardo was the subject of a demonstration in June outside the McLennan County Sheriff’s Office by members of the Waco Immigrants Alliance. They called for an outside agency to investigate Fajardo’s allegations. Chief Deputy David Kilcrease pledged at that time to reopen the initial investigation into her complaints. But he said in June that based on Fajardo’s own description of what happened and statements she made in recorded jail conversations, the incidents are not crimes and amount to routine “textbook pat-downs” by a female officer. “It’s obvious here that the whole thing is to try to enhance her immigration status,” Kilcrease said in June. “But ruining somebody’s life so she can keep her life here is not reasonable. If somebody did something to her, they need to answer for it. But what she is claiming is just not there. This is a textbook pat-down. There was nothing wrong with it, or there was certainly nothing illegal about it.” Fajardo’s attorney, Gerald R. Villarrial, disagrees. He denies Fajardo’s claims have anything to do with her immigration status and said the Texas Commission on Jail Standards issued a failing grade after a recent inspection of the Jack Harwell Detention Center, its third failure in the past four years. Staff at the facility falsified logs to make it appear they checked on inmates at the required times, while surveillance footage shows some of the checks happened at intervals up to four times longer than the maximum allowed, according to the commission report. The inspection also found jail staffing was below minimum requirements and jailers were not in their assigned wings. “I think there is difference between a pat-down and someone grabbing your breast,” Villarrial said. “And I am not satisfied with the investigation they did. I can’t help but be skeptical with Kilcrease’s statement that they are going to reopen the investigation and in the next breath he says she is just doing this for immigration purposes.” Kilcrease did not return a phone message Friday. “She was routinely brought out by this particular guard and brought into areas where the cameras couldn’t see her and fondled on her breasts,” Villarrial said. “There were sexual advances made to her, and when she would not reciprocate to these advances, she had holy hell to pay. She was searched more and harassed more by this particular guard.” Fajardo has since been transferred to the McLennan County Jail, where she has a pending state-jail felony theft case and an immigration hold on her, Villarrial said.

Dec 2, 2016 PCWG theeagle.com
Ex-Waco jail employee arrested, accused of orchestrating inmate fight
A former Jack Harwell Detention Center employee was arrested last week after he allegedly orchestrated a jailhouse fight between two inmates allegedly to keep one inmate from “picking on him,” an arrest affidavit states.  Wesley James Gillispie, 18, was arrested Wednesday after he misused his authority as a Jack Harwell Detention Center employee on Nov. 5 when he felt an inmate was “picking on him,” the arrest affidavit states. Gillispie allegedly gave another inmate access to the housing area of the inmate that Gillispie was targeting “for the sole purpose of having (the first inmate) assault” the inmate that was allegedly “picking on” Gillispie. The Jack Harwell facility is a private jail that allows overflow inmates from the neighboring McLennan County Jail to be housed in a secure facility. Gillispie was arrested on a Class A misdemeanor charge of official oppression and was booked in to McLennan County Jail. He later posted bond and was released. It was not immediately clear if Gillispie resigned or was fired from his position, but authorities confirmed that Gillispie is no longer employed at the Harwell jail.

Jun 2, 2016 wacotrib.com
Officials investigating death of jail inmate
Federal, state and local law enforcement officials are investigating the death of an inmate at the Jack Harwell Detention Center in McLennan County on Monday evening. James Duke, warden of the privately operated jail, did not return phone messages Tuesday, and others, including local and federal officials, declined comment or referred questions to other agencies. Brandon Wood, executive director of the Texas Commission on Jail Standards, confirmed Tuesday that officials at the Jack Harwell Detention Center notified the commission about the inmate’s death about 7:30 p.m. Monday. The commission will review an initial report about the incident from the private jail officials before determining whether additional action is needed by the commission, Wood said. County jails and private detention centers are required to notify the commission of an inmate’s death within 24 hours, he said. McLennan County Justice of the Peace James Lee was called to the jail at 3101 E. Marlin Highway after the death. Lee did not return phone calls Tuesday, and a staff member in his office referred questions to the McLennan County Sheriff’s Office. Lee also did not respond immediately to a Public Information Act request for information, including whether he ordered an autopsy. McLennan County Sheriff Parnell McNamara did not return phone messages Tuesday. Sheriff’s Office Capt. Ricky Armstrong declined comment, saying the inmate was a U.S. Marshals Service prisoner and referring questions to the marshals service. Deputy U.S. Marshal Joe Bays also declined comment, saying the matter is under investigation. Bays declined to provide details of the inmate’s death, his or her identity or suspected manner and means of death. The jail is operated by LaSalle Corrections, which manages 18 facilities with a total inmate capacity of 13,000 in Louisiana, Texas and Georgia. LaSalle Executive Director Rodney Cooper did not return phone calls to his office Tuesday. A McLennan County grand jury indicted three former LaSalle Corrections employees in February on charges that they altered documents to make it appear they conducted scheduled inmate checks following a suicide in the jail in November. Michael Wayne Crittenden, 24; Milton Edward Walker, 33; and Christopher David Simpson, 24, each were indicted on a charge of tampering with government records, a third-degree felony punishable by up to 10 years in prison. Surveillance video showed that Crittenden, Walker and Simpson all lied about conducting head counts in N-Wing in the early morning hours of Nov. 1, according to records filed in the case. A review was conducted after Michael Angelo Martinez, 25, of Waco, was found unresponsive in his single-person cell. Martinez’s death was ruled suicide by asphyxia. Martinez had been in jail since Aug. 18 on charges of unlawful possession of a firearm and possession of cocaine. He also was being held on a federal detainer, according to county records. McNamara said in November that Martinez was in the section of the jail where inmates are to be checked every 30 minutes.

Feb 18, 2016 wacotrib.com
3 former jailers indicted on tampering charges in suicide
Three former correctional officers at the Jack Harwell Detention Center were indicted Wednesday on charges that they altered documents following a suicide in the jail to make it appear they conducted scheduled inmate checks in the hours leading up to the suicide. A McLennan County grand jury indicted Michael Wayne Crittenden, 24; Milton Edward Walker, 33; and Christopher David Simpson, 24, each on a charge of tampering with government records, a third-degree felony punishable by up to 10 years in prison. All three were employees of LaSalle Corrections, which operates the Harwell private jail on State Highway 6.  Waco attorney Phil Frederick, who represents Simpson, and attorney Will Hutson, who represents Walker, both declined comment about their client’s case. Court records indicate Crittenden does not have an attorney. Surveillance video showed that Crittenden, Walker and Simpson all lied about conducting head counts in N-Wing in the early morning hours of Nov. 1, according to records filed in the case. A review was conducted after Michael Angelo Martinez, 25, of Waco, was found unresponsive in his single-person cell. Martinez’s death was ruled suicide by asphyxia. Martinez had been in jail since Aug. 18 on charges of unlawful possession of a firearm and possession of cocaine. He also was being held on a federal detainer, according to county records. Sheriff Parnell McNamara said Martinez was in the section of the jail where inmates are to be checked every 30 minutes. Walker was supposed to conduct “observation checks” from 1:05 a.m. through 3:25 a.m. as well as 4:35 a.m. through 6:17 a.m. He signed off on head-count documents at 6:30 p.m. Oct. 31 and 1 a.m. and 4 a.m. the following morning. “Video surveillance confirmed Walker did not actually conduct head counts,” an affidavit written by Detective Kimberly King states. Crittenden and Simpson also are alleged to have failed to perform head counts during the early morning hours of Nov. 1 and then filling out paperwork that stated they had done them. McLennan County received a notice of noncompliance Nov. 5 from the state jail commission because inmates known to be mentally ill or suicidal were not checked on every 30 minutes, according to a report. The Texas Commission on Jail Standards’ report states observations should be performed at least every 30 minutes in areas where inmates are known to be “assaultive, potentially suicidal, mentally ill or who have demonstrated bizarre behavior.” Brandon Wood, Texas Commission on Jail Standards executive director, told the Tribune-Herald at the time that the commission reviews operations at a facility after an inmate death. McLennan County commissioners in June extended their contract with LaSalle Corrections through June 2018 to allow the company to continue operation of the Jack Harwell Detention Center. All three men remain free on bail.

Dec 12, 2015 wacotrib.com
Texas: Sexual assault alleged at LaSalle prison
A former jail inmate alleges she repeatedly was sexually assaulted at the private Jack Harwell Detention Center, where she claims a long-standing lack of institutional control has led to an environment of smuggling, extortion, drug abuse and sexual misconduct. The 30-year-old woman is seeking unspecified damages in a lawsuit filed this week in Waco’s 170th State District Court against LaSalle Corrections, a private corrections company that has operated McLennan County’s private jail since 2013. The Tribune-Herald is not identifying the woman because she alleges she was the victim of sexual assault. Ryan Horvath, an attorney for LaSalle in Ruston, Louisiana, did not return phone messages left Thursday seeking comment for this story. LaSalle Corrections operates 18 facilities in Texas, Louisiana and Georgia, according to its website. The lawsuit, filed by Waco attorney Bill Johnston, provides a historical perspective of private jail operations in McLennan County dating to 1999, when CiviGenics began operating the now-vacant downtown jail and later merged with Community Education Centers in 2007. The suit says CiviGenics did not live up to its promise to the county to house only low-risk offenders and soon “smuggling and contraband into the CiviGenics-run jail was commonplace.” ‘Reached a crescendo’ The smuggling and contraband problems “reached a crescendo,” the suit alleges, in November 2001, when guards smuggled a cellphone and jail key to inmate Sherman Fields. Fields escaped from the jail and kidnapped and murdered his former girlfriend, Suncerey Coleman. Fields is now on federal death row. Because of that incident, officials at the private jail were aware of the “dangerous consequences of the loss of institutional control” over the facility, the suit claims. “Negligent acts in jails often lead to intentional acts and to peril,” the suit says. ”To the defendant, this was foreseeable, if not predictable, by the fall of 2013.” When CEC took over, “although the name changed, many of the faces were the same,” according to the suit. “Employees who had been working at the infamous downtown Waco facility from which Sherman Fields had escaped began to work at the new facility located on State Highway 6 south of Waco,” the suit alleges. When LaSalle took over, many of the same employees and training practices remained in place. “The history of negligence included all manner of misdeeds, from the smuggling of contraband, poor training and supervision of employees and sexual misconduct by employees,” according to the lawsuit. Items allowed to be smuggled included food, cellphones, cigarettes, marijuana, cocaine and other drugs, including painkillers, the suit claims. Those practices led to the repeated sexual assault of the plaintiff, the suit alleges. “For a fee, to be paid to the guard or his outside contact, an inmate could receive smuggled goods and contraband, or could arrange to have sex with another inmate,” the suit claims. “Significant sums of money were extorted from the plaintiff and her family by employees of the defendant. The plaintiff’s mother was actually instructed to meet and pay extortion payments to employees of the defendant so that they would smuggle items into the facility or otherwise treat the plaintiff favorably — or not punish her.” John Spears, a LaSalle correctional officer, was arrested for having improper sexual relations with the plaintiff in this case in December 2013, according to the lawsuit. His felony case remains pending in 19th State District Court. “Female inmates were subjected to an environment of frequent sexual harassment, sexual exploitation and even sexual assault,” the lawsuit alleges. “The misconduct of the employees of the defendant led to a sexually exploitative environment at the Jack Harwell Detention Center.”

Jan 28, 2015 nbcdfw.com
A former corrections officer at a privately run prison in Central Texas has pleaded guilty to having sex with an inmate she was guarding. Melissa Suzanne Corona of Waco pleaded guilty Monday to having an improper sexual relationship with an inmate. Prosecutors in Waco have recommended probation for Corona in a plea deal on the state jail felony charge. The 25-year-old Corona formerly worked at the Jack Harwell Detention Center in Waco. Investigators say Corona in 2013 began the relationship by kissing a male inmate more than 10 times. She then had improper contact through the bars while both were clothed, followed by entering the man's cell and performing sex acts on him. Corona was indicted last March. Further details on the inmate weren't immediately available.

Aug 29, 2013 wacotrib.com

McLennan County officials said the 200 detainees U. S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement promised to the county’s private jail didn’t come. Chief Sheriff’s Deputy Matt Cawthon said ICE told the county the detainees would be delivered to the Jack Harwell Detention Center on Highway 6 at the end of July, but none arrived. Harwell warden James Duke said he has offered 300 of the center’s 833 beds to the federal agency, but he doesn’t know when to expect them to be filled. “The thing with immigration is this facility is only an overflow facility. So basically, we can’t expect (detainees) unless (ICE) needs us for overflow beds, and there’s no way we can predict that,” he said. “Dealing with (ICE), it’s got to be on their time and on their need.” Duke said the Harwell center could receive inmates if the five San Antonio ICE district facilities were filled. LaSalle Corrections, a private company, took over the Harwell center in May from New Jersey-based Community Education Centers Inc. because of LaSalle’s reputation for bringing federal inmates to their facilities, County Judge Scott Felton said. LaSalle’s contract with the county is three years with the option of an additional two years. LaSalle managing member Billy McConnell said the company is losing money on the Harwell contract. He said if there are not enough federal, state or county inmates to fill the facility, the company would evaluate whether Harwell is worth keeping open. But McConnell said that isn’t a consideration until the last year of the contract, and the company meanwhile is actively pursuing ways to fill its beds. The Harwell center needs the revenue from housing about 650 inmates for it to cover its bills, McConnell said. Precinct 4 Comissioner Ben Perry said there are about 350 county inmates now at Harwell. Revenue earned at Harwell first goes to paying down the county’s $49 million bond. Perry said LaSalle pays about $4.2 million toward the bond and its interest per year. This delay in housing any federal detainees continues to strain the county’s budget as it pays for overflow inmates. The county can house about 931 inmates at the McLennan County Jail on Highway 6 and when it’s at full capacity, additional inmates stay at the Harwell center. Perry said if LaSalle could bring in enough inmates to fill Harwell, then the county’s overflow inmates would go to the county’s downtown jail, which is closed. LaSalle also would manage the downtown jail if the Harwell center were full, but the county would get a discount on its overflow prisoners housed there, Perry said. It costs the county $51 a day to house prisoners at the McLennan County Jail on Highway 6, and it pays LaSalle $45.50 a day for prisoners to stay at the Harwell facility. ICE would pay LaSalle $55 day to house its detainees at the Harwell facility. The county has spent $2.2 million more than its $3 million 2013 budget for overflow prisoners, Perry said. County Auditor Stan Chambers said in previous budget sessions the money allotted for inmate care and indigent defense is enough to cover July and August, but he is combing the budget to look for excess to pay September’s bills. At the end of July, there was only about $785,000 left in contingency, he said. “You need to be very careful about your decisions going forward because we’re going to need that to fund these two line items,” he said.

Jackson Parish Correctional Center
Jan 24, 2021 theadvocate.com

Disabled inmate alleges mistreatment, gets $400K settlement in lawsuit against private prison

A man detained for more than a year while awaiting trial won $405,000 in a recent civil settlement after claiming he suffered negligence and mistreatment in a private prison that made his disability more painful. The inmate — now released — claims in the lawsuit that he spent months in debilitating pain at Jackson Parish Correctional Center, a facility managed by the Ruston-based LaSalle Management Company, after a fall at a local jail left him severely injured. Denied physical therapy, the inmate says he was often forced to drag himself across prison floors when guards deprived him of his wheelchair. The settlement meeting included attorneys for LaSalle Management Company and two local sheriffs. A representative for LaSalle did not respond to a request for comment. "It was a nightmare," said Lane Carter, the former inmate. "It was from start to finish a really, really bad dream that I couldn’t wake up from...and I was living it, and couldn’t wake up." Carter was arrested in July 2017 in Winn Parish on one count of distribution of methamphetamine and one count of middle grade theft, his attorney said. Before his incarceration, he was a "healthy, hardworking 42-year-old," according to the lawsuit. Carter first fell while showering at the local jail that August, leaving him badly injured, the lawsuit says. When he was transferred to the LaSalle-managed Jackson Parish Correctional Center several days later "without explanation," he was limping. An EMT at the facility determined Carter to “be very tender on the left side of [his] body and…peeing blood,” the lawsuit says. Carter claims he made several sick calls after the assessment but wasn’t seen by a nurse for more than a week. When the nurse finally responded, he was taken to Jackson Parish Hospital, where Carter learned he had “acute lumber and cervical radiculopathy, cervical strains and herniated disc…with neck pain…and sciatica — all trauma related.” However, when Carter returned to the facility, he was given ibuprofen without other treatment, the lawsuit says. His condition continued to worsen to the point where he required a walker, and later a wheelchair, the lawsuit says. The lawsuit details months of requests for help with numerous delayed or nonexistent responses by officers. In late September, Carter put in a sick call request, saying that “walking more than 25 feet is close to torture” — but according to the lawsuit, he didn’t see the nurse for three more days. In early October, he submitted a similar sick call, saying “I CAN’T WALK!” but when he saw the JCC physician several days later, the doctor refused to treat him, the lawsuit says. In other cases, Carter claims JCC deputies made his day-to-day life unnecessarily difficult while he struggled to navigate the prison with his disability. For instance, Carter was restricted from outside recreation time because there were no ramps to exit any of the dorms he was housed in, the lawsuit says. He also could not see visitors because the visitation area was inaccessible due to the far distance from his cell. And when Carter was scheduled for a court appearance, JCC staff would toss him in and out of the transport vehicle in a “trust fall” into the officer’s arms, but the officers “occasionally missed and dropped him,” the lawsuit says. Another shower accident, roughly two months after his initial slip, complicated his condition and access to prison facilities, the lawsuit said.  Told to take a five-minute shower using a plastic chair without his wheelchair, Carter lost his balance, slipped, fell and lost consciousness, the lawsuit says. He did not see a nurse for several days, and when he was finally transported to LSU Shreveport Medical Center to see a physician, neurosurgeon and neurologist, his situation had further deteriorated. His symptoms after the fall included “head pain, worsened neck pain, worsened/new back pain, visual change/blurry vision, numbness in his extremities, shoulder pain, and headaches,” the lawsuit says. Carter's MRI reading showed “one of the lumbar disc bulges…indenting [his] nerve root in his spinal canal."  While Carter claims he was prescribed physical therapy and referred to outpatient clinics at the hospital, he was never given access to such treatment at JCC, according to the lawsuit. In the meantime, the lawsuit says the deputy sheriffs would sometimes deprive Carter of his wheelchair for hours or days, restricting his access to toilets, showers and the prison phones. When he tried to walk, he would often fall. His mother purchased him a wheelchair for his use since he so regularly went without, but the guards would sometimes give his wheelchair to other inmates, the lawsuit says. “For many activities, he just gave up, but had no choice but to find a way to get to the restroom, or into his bunk to sleep or rest,” the lawsuit says. Without assistance, Carter would have “no choice but to crawl across the floor” to use the bathroom, the lawsuit says. “At times, he urinated or defecated on himself if he was unable to access the facilities.” Carter took a plea deal to one count of distribution of methamphetamine in March 2019, according to his attorney. When Carter was released, the lawsuit says he initially could not walk or stand and suffered from pain throughout his body, among other ailments. However, in a recent interview with The Advocate, Carter said he is now "ambulatory" after surgery to address some of his condition. In addition to accusing LaSalle, JCC and other parties of negligence, Carter’s lawsuit alleges the company failed to provide adequate accommodations for his disability in violation of his civil rights. "It was a horrible, frightening experience," Carter said in his recent interview. "I thought when I got out I could resume my normal life. Only I haven’t been able to resume my normal life completely." Carter's attorneys, Casey Denson and Kenneth Bordes, said they hope their work can prevent inmates from suffering as Carter has. "As we enter the year 2021 we are still seeing rampant corruption and incomprehensible numbers of civil rights violations within our Louisiana prisons," Bordes said. "It is not working, and we must do better.”

J.B. Evans Correctional Center, Tensas Parish, Louisiana
November 19, 2009 News-Star
Inmates at a Tensas Parish prison are refusing to return to their cells Thursday afternoon as a form of protest, according to Tensas Parish Sheriff Ricky Jones. Prisoners at the J.B. Evans Correctional Center are not moving from the prison yard to protest the amount of food they receive, Jones said. The warden and deputy warden at the correctional center were not available Thursday afternoon. Staff at the prison offered no comment on the number of inmates or other details of the protest. According to LCS Correctional Services Inc., the company that operates the prison, Evans Correctional Center is a 400-bed multi-use facility that has housed offenders for the Louisiana, Alabama and Harris County, Texas, corrections departments. Richard Harbison, executive vice president of LCS, was not available for comment Thursday afternoon.

Jefferson County jail, Beaumont Texas
Dec 16, 2016 kfdm.com
Supervisor at private jail convicted in federal court of providing cell phone to prisoner
From U.S. Attorney's Office-A jury has found a 43-year-old Beaumont, Texas man guilty of federal violations in the Eastern District of Texas, announced Acting U.S. Attorney Brit Featherston today. Donald Roy Kelly was found guilty by a jury of providing a prison inmate with a prohibited object and bribery of a public official following a three-day trial before U.S. District Judge Marcia Crone. The jury reached its verdict around 6:30 pm on Dec. 14, 2016. According to information presented in court, Kelly was an evening shift supervisory corrections officer at the LaSalle Unit (downtown Jefferson County jail) in late 2014 and early 2015. Juan Saenz-Tamez, then leader of the Gulf Cartel was brought to the LaSalle Unit pending his trial for federal drug trafficking offenses in October 2014. Once at the LaSalle Unit and in the custody of Kelly, Saenz-Tamez was approached by Kelly and corruptly offered a cell phone to the inmate in exchange for money. Kelly engaged other individuals to assist him in the scheme. A cell phone was purchased by another individual and given to Kelly who provided it to Saenz-Tamez. Additionally, fast food was brought into the LaSalle Unit at Kelly’s direction for Saenz-Tamez. Saenz-Tamez had individuals attempt money transfers to Kelly in payment for his corrupt acts. Ultimately the cell phone was seized from Saenz-Tamez on Jan. 3, 2015. Kelly was indicted by a federal grand jury in April 2016. Under federal statutes, Kelly faces up to 15 years in federal prison at sentencing. The maximum statutory sentence prescribed by Congress and is provided here for information purposes, as the sentencing will be determined by the court based on the advisory sentencing guidelines and other statutory factors. A sentencing hearing will be scheduled after the completion of a presentence investigation by the U.S. Probation Office. This case was investigated by the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the United States Marshals Service, and the Drug Enforcement Administration. This case was prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorneys John Craft and Christopher T. Tortorice.

Jan 21, 2020 framinghamsource.com
The following is a media release from Sen. Elizabeth Warren’s office. She is one of two individuals elected by voters in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts to serve the state in Washington DC in the US Senate. She is a Democrat.
WASHINGTON DC – United States Senator Elizabeth Warren led a letter to Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and the Federal Bureau of Prisons (BOP) questioning their anti-corruption policies and practices after a series of high-profile officials responsible for oversight of the private prison and detention industry have left to join the biggest companies in the industry. Joining the letter are Senator Kamala Harris (D-Calif.) and Congresswomen Pramila Jayapal (D-Wash.) and Ayanna Pressley (D-Mass.). In the last three years, ICE’s acting director for the New Orleans field office left to work for LaSalle, a company that operates six facilities in the region; ICE’s official in charge of contracting left to work as a paid witness for private prison company GEO in a lawsuit alleging mistreatment of detained people; BOP’s assistant director, who was involved in oversight of private prisons, left to become GEO’s director of operations; and the acting head of ICE left to become Executive Vice President for contract compliance at GEO. “The growing connections between the federal government and the for-profit prison and detention industry are made more troubling by the fact that in recent years, a number of key officials have left ICE and BOP to work for private prison and immigration detention companies — with several of these officials in positions where they work with or solicit business from their former colleagues,” wrote the lawmakers. “This pattern of high-level ICE and BOP officials leaving their posts to work for the same companies that they were in charge of regulating raises questions and concerns about corruption and compliance with federal contracting and conflict of interest law.” In their letter, the lawmakers note particular concerns about compliance with federal contracting and conflict of interest law, including: Federal contracting law, which prohibits former federal agency officials from receiving compensation as “an employee, officer, director, or consultant” from a contractor that received an award of at least $10 million for at least one year after leaving the agency. Federal conflict of interest laws, which ban federal employees from participating “personally and substantially” in any particular matters that impact their financial interest or the financial interest of “any person or organization with whom [the employee] is negotiating or has any arrangement concerning prospective employment.” Federal regulations, which further prohibit employees from working on particular matters if they are “seeking employment” with a person or organization impacted by the matter, even if negotiations are not ongoing. President Trump’s executive order on ethics commitments by executive branch appointees, which restricts agency appointees from lobbying their former agency for five years. The lawmakers have requested that the agencies’ response describe how they are working to ensure compliance with federal law and prevent corruption and conflicts of interest. Senator Warren and Congresswoman Jayapal have introduced the most sweeping ethics and anti-corruption legislation since Watergate, the Anti-Corruption and Public Integrity Act, which would eliminate the potential for this kind of revolving door corruption and increase public integrity. In April, Congresswoman Jayapal, along with Senator Warren and Congresswoman Pressley, introduced bicameral legislation, the Dignity of Detained Immigrants Act, to address the inhumane conditions of detention centers that the DHS used to house tens of thousands of immigrants — and end the use of private prisons and county jails to detain immigrants. It would also set humane standards for detention facilities, increase oversight of these facilities to eliminate abuse, and better protect the civil rights of immigrant detainees. Senator Warren has also taken a number of recent actions to hold immigration authorities and private detention operators accountable, and has called to end the use of such contractors entirely: Following a Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Inspector General (IG) report that found unsafe conditions and mistreatment of immigrants at a number of privately-run immigration detention centers, Senator Warren investigated CoreCivic and GEO, as well as Nakamoto Group, the contractor responsible for auditing detention facilities. Her report revealed that neither the companies nor their private auditor have taken responsibility for egregious failures identified by the DHS IG, and also revealed an ongoing dispute between the Nakamoto Group and the IG about the quality of Nakamoto’s inspections. She requested the DHS watchdog investigate the reported use of solitary confinement at GEO and CoreCivic facilities to force participation in “voluntary” work programs, and has raised questions with federal agencies about GEO’s accreditation in 2014 and 2017, given concerning reports about the company’s facilities. Senators Warren and Congresswoman Jayapal sent a letter to Caliburn International Corp. Chief Executive Officer expressing concerns and posing questions about the appointment of former White House Chief of Staff and DHS Secretary General John Kelly to the company’s board of directors just four months after his departure from the Trump Administration. She requested the Securities and Exchange Commission investigate whether GEO violated securities laws by sharing with investors misleading statements about lawsuits brought against the company for the treatment of detainees. Senator Warren and Congresswoman Jayapal also raised questions about a GEO executive’s multiple stays at Trump Hotel while seeking favors from ICE.

Jan 17, 2019 PCWG dallasnews.com
Private jail firm employs former Texas Ranger. Will Rangers investigate deaths in those jails?
AUSTIN -- For years, private jails in Texas run by LaSalle Corrections have been plagued by complaints of lax training and abuse. In-jail deaths at their facilities across the state have resulted in multiple lawsuits for wrongful deaths and negligence. So when the state passed a law in 2017 requiring Texas jails to have an outside law enforcement agency investigate such deaths, the Texas Rangers seemed a perfect fit. Nearly every jail in the state chose the Rangers, the state’s premier investigative agency, to oversee their investigations - including seven of eight LaSalle-run jails -- overseen by the state.  Now, the Texas Jail Commission, which oversees 241 jails across the state, is reviewing its decision to appoint the Rangers as the investigating agency for eight LaSalle-run jails, including ones in Parker and Johnson counties. The review comes after The Dallas Morning News informed the commission that LaSalle's director of governmental affairs, Bob Prince, is a former Texas Ranger whose son, Randall Prince, now oversees the Rangers as a deputy director for the Department of Public Safety. The younger Prince, who is part of Director Steve McCraw’s three-pronged executive team, ran the Texas Rangers for four years prior to his promotion last September. Brandon Wood, executive director of the jail commission, said his staff had reached out to the Louisiana-based private jail company to discuss designating another agency to investigate its in-jail deaths after The News informed him of the company’s connections to the Rangers. “While I have full faith and confidence in the Rangers not being influenced one iota, we are looking at the possibility of having someone else designated because we want to make sure there’s no room to doubt that deaths in custody are being investigated properly,” Wood said. “We’re trying to make sure no one could even question. We want people comfortable in knowing that they conduct those investigations with complete impartiality.” Katherine Cesinger, a spokeswoman for the Department of Public Safety, stressed that there had been no impropriety in previous investigations of LaSalle-run jails and emphasized the Rangers’ “well-deserved reputation for conducting comprehensive and unbiased investigations.”  But she said the department would expand its practices to avoid conflicts of interest. “We do recognize that perception matters,” Cesinger said in a prepared statement. “We remain committed to operating beyond reproach to assure the public that investigations are conducted thoroughly and impartially.” If the Rangers were called to investigate LaSalle’s jails, she said, they would still conduct the investigation, but Randall Prince would recuse himself and one of the department’s other two deputy directors would oversee the case. The Rangers already bring in outside agencies, like the FBI, in investigations on in-jail deaths or officer-involved shootings when an apparent conflict of interest exists, Cesinger said. The department also takes Rangers off investigations when conflicts exist. Jay Eason, director of operations for LaSalle, said the company “does not view Bob’s role with the company as a conflict of interest when it comes to the Texas Rangers investigating deaths in custody.” “Bob Prince’s job duties are strictly Governmental Affairs,” Eason said in a statement.  “He does not have any oversight of facility operations.” Still, the jail commission is planning to replace the Rangers as LaSalle’s outside investigating agency. Wood said the commission and LaSalle had not decided on a course of action yet or when the change might happen, but “they’re willing to do whatever we say or deem necessary.” The requirement for an outside law enforcement agency to investigate in-jail deaths was passed into law under the Sandra Bland Act of 2017. The law’s author, Houston Democrat Garnet Coleman, said the law’s “language on investigations was purposefully included to eliminate conflicts of interest” and added that he would continue to work on tweaks to the law this session. “We will look at the alternatives as part of the Bland Act follow-up,” he said. Local jails were tasked with presenting an outside agency to investigate them, which the commission then would sign off on, Wood said. All but seven jails - including Dallas' which chose the local district attorney investigator - chose the Texas Rangers. Wood said he was focused on meeting the deadline for the requirement - which had to be in place by the beginning of 2018 - and did not make the connection between LaSalle and the Texas Rangers until The News brought it to his attention. “It’s one of those things when you brought it up, I said, ‘You’re right.’ His dad does work for LaSalle,” Wood said. “While it doesn’t violate the statute, there could be a perception involved that someone does somebody a favor. We strive each and every day to make sure we’re aware of the perception and that people are comfortable with what we do and there is no room for questioning that.” The only LaSalle-run jail not assigned the Texas Rangers as their outside law enforcement agency was the Jefferson County Downtown Jail, which chose the Jefferson County Sheriff’s Office. LaSalle officials said their jails are overseen by local counties, which are responsible for naming the outside investigating agencies required by the law. “When we have a death in custody in one of the county jails we operate in Texas, we report the incident to the Texas Jail Commission and the Sheriff’s Office,” Eason said. “ An outside law enforcement agency is appointed to investigate the death in custody. Lasalle Corrections is not involved in that decision and the investigation.” Diana Claitor, executive director of the Texas Jail Project which advocates for improved standards at jails, was critical of the Rangers investigating LaSalle jails. “It’s disturbing to find out that the former Texas Ranger and longtime DPS officer Bob Prince is a Director of Government Affairs for LaSalle Southwest Corrections,” Claitor said in a statement. “Worse, his own son works at DPS in an oversight position of the Texas Rangers. So when a Ranger is sent to investigate LaSalle deaths, which occur frequently, I’m sorry to say, there is likelihood of conflict of interest.” She called for a closer watch on jails run by LaSalle, which she said had an “abysmal track record.” In November, The News reported on LaSalle’s high use of untrained jailers who don’t have the required 96 hours of training on how to handle volatile prisoners, when to use force and what constitutes basic safety techniques. Last year, LaSalle-run jails were found out of compliance with Texas jail standards at least four times. In addition to jails in Parker and Johnson, the company runs lockups in Bowie, Fannin, Haskell, Jefferson, McLennan and Limestone counties. “If there are any jails in Texas that deserve close observation and unbiased oversight, it’s the privatized facilities run by LaSalle,” Claitor said. She applauded the commission’s move to designate new investigating agencies for LaSalle-run jails. “It’s essential that they get somebody else and I’m glad that they’re doing that,” she said.

LCS Caldwell Detention Center
, Clarks, Louisiana
April 6, 2006 The Town Talk
An Olla man who escaped from the Caldwell Correctional Center in Clarks committed suicide tonight at a hunting camp near Dodson in Winn Parish, authorities said. Jimmy L. Peppers, 36, barricaded himself inside the camp as authorities tried to talk him into giving himself up. Authorities fired tear gas into the building because they suspected he was inside. Peppers yelled out that he was inside, and authorities tried unsuccessfully for about 10 minutes to talk him into surrendering. At about 6:55 p.m., authorities heard a gunshot, and a Winnfield Police Department K-9 officer went into the house and discovered the body. Assistant Chief Deputy Becky Ledbetter said the department received calls at about 9 a.m. Thursday that someone had escaped from the Caldwell Correctional Center in Clarks and that a Kelly woman had been taken by force from her home. “We are not really sure how he escaped,” Ledbetter said. “He went to the woman’s house and took her by force. He forced her into her own car.” Ledbetter said the two were driving on La. Highway 126 in Winn Parish, five miles east of Dodson, when they got into a scuffle. The two were romantically involved at one time. The unidentified victim dropped him off near Gaars Mill in northeast Winn Parish. She drove to nearby Dodson, where she told authorities that he was armed with a .38-caliber pistol that he took from her. Peppers was serving time at the Caldwell Correctional Center for a felony driving while intoxicated charge and was scheduled to go to court Tuesday for another count of felony driving while intoxicated in LaSalle Parish, Ledbetter said. This is the second prison escape to occur in Caldwell Parish in less than a month. Five inmates escaped March 11 from privately operated LCS Caldwell Detention Center, located directly beside the Caldwell Correctional Center on La. Highway 845 in Clarks. All five were caught and charged with additional counts and placed back at the facility in less than a week. Owners of the facility are conducting an internal investigation into the escape.

March 16, 2006 KATC TV
Authorities in Jefferson Parish have captured an escapee from the Caldwell Detention Center. Twenty-seven-year-old Jeremy Robinson escaped along with four other inmates over the weekend. He's the last one to be taken into custody. Jefferson Parish deputies stopped a car yesterday afternoon -- that was suspected to be stolen by Robinson. Caldwell Sheriff Steve May says Robinson's girlfriend was driving the car. Deputies then received information that Robinson was at his girlfriend's house in Kenner. Robinson was taken into custody without incident and is expected to be returned to Caldwell Parish today. He was serving time on a drug charge -- and now faces additional charges of aggravated kidnapping, aggravated escape, and attempted murder of a police officer.

March 15, 2006 KPLC TV
Caldwell Parish Sheriff Steve May says an escaped prisoner from a private prison in his parish has probably left the area. Twenty-seven-year-old Jeremy Robinson of Jefferson Parish is the sole inmate still at large after five men overpowered personnel at L-C-S Caldwell Detention Center on Saturday night, then fled the facility. May believes Robinson may have stolen a vehicle in the south end of the parish and may be attempting to return to his home in the New Orleans area. May says authorities statewide have been notified of the escape. Bond has been set at 500-thousand dollars each on the other four escapees, who were captured Saturday night and Sunday morning.

March 14, 2006 AP
Bond has been set at $500,000 each for four of the five men accused of getting a prison worker to open a control room door, taking control of the prison and then driving out in a prison employee's truck. The fifth, Jeremy Robinson, 27, of Jefferson Parish, remained at large. He is described as black, 5-foot-7 and 150 pounds, with "Shanda" tattooed on his right arm. The five escaped Saturday night from the private LSC Caldwell Detention Center in Clarks. Caldwell Parish Sheriff Steve May said that after getting the control room open, the five overpowered employees and eventually took control of the prison. When a town marshal tried to stop their truck, they tried to run over him but crashed the truck, May said. He identified those back in custody as Corey Manshack, 25, of Converse; Keith Gallow, 33, of Ville Platte; Melvin Tipton, 23, of West Monroe; and Ray Eugene Tate of Lawrenceville, Ill. All four were booked with new charges of aggravated kidnapping and aggravated escape; Manshack and Gallow also were booked with theft and trespassing. Tate is wanted on seven counts of failing to appear in court for drug charges in Hopkinsville, Ky., May said. He said Tate was moved to Clarks from New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina.

March 12, 2006 Houma Today
Five inmates escaped a privately run prison in Caldwell Parish, but authorities were able to track down all but one of the escaped convicts by Sunday afternoon, the sheriff's office said. Jeremy Robinson, a 27-yeasr-old inmate from Jefferson Parish, was still at large on Sunday, said Glenn Gilmore, a chief deputy of the sheriff's department. The five inmates overpowered a female guard at about 9 p.m. Saturday at the LCS Caldwell Detention Center, Gilmore said.

Limestone County Detention Center
Sep 1, 2020 wacotrib.com

Limestone County aims to sell detention center to for-profit operator

Four months after Limestone County made deep concessions with LaSalle Corrections to keep operating the county’s 1,000-bed detention center, officials are hoping the private prison company will buy it. Limestone County Judge Richard Duncan said county officials are “trying to get all our ducks in a line” to request proposals from private detention firms to buy the 25-year-old facility in Groesbeck, which is costing the county about $15,000 a month to maintain. LaSalle has expressed interest in buying the facility, and Duncan said it’s likely that the firm, which has run the detention center for the past four years, will submit the lone proposal to buy it. “We are getting the packet together,” Duncan said. “We have authorized an appraisal, we are getting a survey and we are putting it out for proposals. The main thing is the jobs, so if we sell it, we don’t think we will sell it without some kind of economic development package that would ensure jobs, somewhere around 80 to 100 jobs. If we do sell it for X number of dollars, we would want to make sure they were on the hook for the next five or 10 years to make sure we continue to have local people out there.” The county renegotiated its contract with LaSalle in May in a bid to save 150 jobs after the Louisiana-based firm threatened to pull out of the county. The facility had previously closed from 2013 to 2016 because of lost federal contracts. The facility has the capacity to hold 1,000 inmates, but Duncan said maintenance issues have reduced that number to about 700. On Monday, the facility held 560 federal prisoners, but the diminishing number of U.S. Immigration and Enforcement inmates has made it less profitable for LaSalle, a for-profit correctional firm that manages 18 facilities with a total inmate capacity of 13,000 in Texas, Louisiana and Georgia. The firm also ran McLennan County’s Jack Harwell Detention Center until last year, when the county took over operations. The COVID-19 pandemic also has affected LaSalle’s bottom line because it has forced the U.S. Marshal’s Service to limit the frequency with which it transfers federal prisoners, Duncan said. To help convince LaSalle to stay in Groesbeck, Limestone County officials reduced LaSalle’s monthly payments to $15,000, down from a monthly average of $28,000 to $35,000 when the total was based on higher inmate counts. The county also agreed to pay for maintenance or repairs for projects more than $5,000, Duncan said. However, in recent months, the county has been paying close to $15,000 a month in maintenance costs, the judge said. “The building is well past its prime,” Duncan said. “So the good news is we are not really losing a lot of money, but the bad news is we are not making a lot of money. But we do have those jobs and those were the most important things to the county commissioners. We can do a break-even situation as long as we keep those jobs.” A corrections job at the facility starts at $18.50 an hour with full benefits, Duncan said. The contract negotiated with LaSalle in May runs through June 2023, but LaSalle can cancel it with 60-day notice. Duncan declined to disclose a sale price for the center, saying he doesn’t want to compromise the county’s negotiating position. “I think they are interested in buying it,” Duncan said. “They obviously are looking for a good price. They had a new facility they bought not long ago in the $4 million range. It was newer and had about the same number of beds.” Commissioners plan to open proposals on the detention center purchase on Oct. 5.

May 20, 2020 wacotrib.com 

New contract keeps private jail company LaSalle Corrections in Limestone County
Limestone County commissioners have negotiated a new contract with a private company to continue operating the county detention center, making deep concessions to save the center’s 150 jobs. LaSalle Corrections administrators told Limestone County officials earlier this month that the company would not renew its current contract and end its six-year affiliation with the county on June 27. So Limestone County Judge Richard Duncan, county commissioners and Waco attorney Herb Bristow went to work negotiating with LaSalle officials to see what it would take to keep the company operating in Limestone County with its $20-an-hour correction center jobs. “It was very important to myself and the commissioners, primarily for the jobs,” Duncan said. “I can’t really think of any other reason. We are giving up almost any revenue we are making. We are making very little, but 150 jobs is very large for Limestone County, not to mention they are good-paying jobs with benefits.” The facility, which opened about 25 years ago, has the capacity to hold 1,000 inmates. However, on Monday, there were 363 prisoners, including 201 being held for U.S. Immigration and Enforcement and 162 being held for the U.S. Marshals Service. The diminishing number of ICE prisoners has made it less profitable for LaSalle, a for-profit correctional firm that manages 18 facilities with a total inmate capacity of 13,000 in Texas, Louisiana and Georgia. And the U.S. Marshal’s Service is limiting the frequency with which it transfers federal prisoners during the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. To help convince LaSalle to stay in Groesbeck, Limestone County officials reduced LaSalle’s monthly payments to $15,000, down from a monthly average of $28,000 to $35,000 when the total was based on higher inmate counts. The county also agreed to pay for maintenance or repairs for projects more than $5,000, Duncan said. The new contract will be in effect through June 28, 2023, but LaSalle has the option of canceling it with 60-day notice. The monthly payment to the county will increase after one year and revert to the original plan based on inmate count, Duncan said. LaSalle corporate spokesman Scott Sutterfield did not return phone messages from the Tribune-Herald. “There was a time when the private prison was a golden goose for Limestone County,” said Sheriff Dennis Wilson. “It brought in $3.5 million a year for the county. But that was when demand was high. It was very profitable for the county, but if you stay in this business long enough, that ball swings to the right and swings to the left and back and forth. I’m not sure we will ever get back to seeing the demand we saw 20 years ago.” Under the current contract with LaSalle, no state or county inmates can be housed at the detention center. Both Wilson and Duncan attribute the decline in ICE detainees held at the facility to President Donald Trump’s immigration enforcement policies. “I think in time it will be good for the county,” said Wilson, who is retiring to conclude a 45-year law enforcement career at the end of the year. “You have to look at what it does for our local community. When the prison is up and running good, we reach out to local vendors in our community and they benefit as well. Most of the guards live in Limestone County and they shop at local stores. LaSalle wants to be good partners, and keeping those jobs here is important. And those are good federal-wage level jobs.” Several private correctional companies over the years have operated the facility, which sat vacant from 2013 to 2016, Wilson said. LaSalle operated the Jack Harwell Detention Center in Waco for a number of years before McLennan County took over operations late last year. The facility had been operated by private, for-profit companies since the county built it with proceeds from a $49 million bond package issued in 2009. Before LaSalle agreed to let its $8 million contract with McLennan County expire, the facility failed three of its last inspections, resulting in the State Commission on Jail Standards placing a remedial order against the facility in May 2019. LaSalle was cited for failure to keep a minimum ratio of jailers to inmates, failure to conduct visual checks and failure to have proper identification procedures for inmates. Wilson and Duncan say they have received no complaints about LaSalle management at the Limestone County facility. Anali Looper, director of the Waco office of American Gateway, a nonprofit immigration legal service provider, said LaSalle officials recently invited her group into the Limestone County detention center to help detainees with asylum applications and bond and parole requests. “We were hoping to get in there, so it is nice to be invited,” Looper said. “It was nice to see them recognize that it is mutually beneficial when detainees there are getting adequate services. It helps everyone out.”

Louisiana Correctional Services

Jun 3, 2017 ktbs.com
Jail case: ‘What happened was he got stomped to death’
Erie Moore grabs Vernon White's throat, part of a disturbing, hours-long assault caught on camera at privately operated correctional center in Monroe. White died of his injuries and Moore died after guards allegedly beat him while subduing him. A bizarre case at a privately run jail in Monroe -- where one inmate stomped his cellmate to death and in turn was killed by guards -- has raised legal questions about the quality of training and employees at those facilities. Wrongful death suits have been filed by the families of both men. While those cases work their way through the federal court system, there are debates in Louisiana and the federal government about whether to discontinue or expand the use of privatized jails. The respective sides point to quality of incarceration and saving money. The cases in Monroe involve the deaths of Vernon White and Erie Moore, two inmates at LaSalle Corrections' Richwood Correctional Center. Two inmates who had behavior problems in jail were placed in a "lockdown" cell together. During a series of incidents that occurred over the next two hours and were recorded by security cameras, one began pushing the other around and wound up stomping him to death. The attacking inmate wound up dead after guards saw what had happened and moved in to subdue him. "They placed this young man into a cell with a mental health patient -- and what happened was he got stomped to death," said Patrick Jackson, a Bossier City attorney who is representing the family of Vernon White. "Over an hour's time -- all of it captured on video -- not a single person even raised a finger to intervene." A spokesman for LaSalle did not return a call or messages from KTBS News for comment. White, 29, of Monroe was arrested on Oct. 10, 2015, for speeding, no driver's license and no proof of insurance. Two days later, White got into a fight with another inmate and was placed in a disciplinary cell with Moore, another disruptive inmate. It would be a volatile mix. The two men got into a fight the first night but jailers kept them together. Shortly after 5 p.m. the next day, Moore began to push White around, video from a cell security camera shows. He grabbed White by the throat at one point, pushed him against a wall and jabbed his finger in White's face and also reared back as if he was going to punch White. The situation escalated over a 20-minute period with Moore becoming increasingly agitated, the video shows. White eventually went to one end of the cell, just out of the view of the camera. The video shows the other inmate appearing to kick and stomp for two minutes. White suffered fatal injuries, Ouachita Parish authorities said. A few minutes later, two food trays were passed through a slot in the cell door. The person who delivered them apparently did not see White lying on the floor. Moore ate both meals. Twenty-two minutes later, as Moore was defecating on the floor, someone can be seen looking through the window in the cell door. Guards then charged into the cell. One knocked Moore senseless with a blow to the head and the dying White was dragged out of the cell. After White was taken to the hospital, guards regrouped and moved into the cell to get Moore. Cameras in the cell and the adjoining hall show Moore dragged out of the cell and slammed onto the floor. Pepper spray was used and punches were thrown, video shows. The subdued Moore was turned over to Ouachita Parish sheriff's deputies who had arrived to investigate White's murder. They saw his condition when he got to jail and took him to the hospital. He died later. Moore tested positive for PCP, investigators said. A jail guard was assigned to monitor the cameras in each cell that night. "(She) said she had over 16 monitors and was too busy -- was distracted," Jackson said. The wrongful death suits filed against Richwood's operator, LaSalle Corrections, by the families of the dead men question the actions, training and supervision of jail staff. The company is fighting the lawsuits. Kenny Sanders, a longtime director of the Caddo Parish Sheriff's training academy, is a frequent consultant on cases involving law-enforcement training. He would not comment directly on the lawsuit by White's family, but said he believes private jails don't provide the same level of training as those run by government agencies. Sanders said he worries that private jails -- and their need to turn a profit -- could cut corners. "I'm being retained far more by attorneys in private facilities -- for violence in private facilities -- than I am in government-run facilities," Sanders said. "Untrained staff lead to incidents where people's civil rights are infringed upon. In order to cut costs they're having to hire as cheap a labor force as they can get... and cut costs on training."

Feb 20, 2016 nola.com
Louisiana considering closing 2 prisons in budget cuts
The Louisiana Department of Corrections is considering closing two privately operated prisons as it tries to cut $14.1 million in spending to help close the state's $940 million budget shortfall. Winn Correctional Center and Allen Correctional Center, are operated by two separate companies. The two closures would save an estimated $4.6 million.  Another option the Department of Corrections is floating -- and the one the department most prefers -- is to temporarily reduce the rate the state pays the two companies that operate Winn and Allen prisons, for a savings of $2.6 million. But under that scenario, the Department of Corrections would also need to temporarily reduce the rate it pays per prisoner to house inmates in jails operated by sheriffs. There is significant risk in closing the two prisons because many of the 1,000 prisoners housed there are unable to be transferred to local facilities because of mental health or debilitating illnesses or because the prisoner is in a special disciplinary unit. "This is going to eventually saturate an already saturated staff, especially as it relates to medical and mental health," Department of Corrections Secretary Jimmy LeBlanc told House Appropriations members on Friday (Feb. 19). "It means we'll probably have to let people out of cells that probably should still be in cells and put them in the general population, which will drive up inmate assaults and inmate-on-staff assaults." The proposal for the two private operators of the prisons, LaSalle Southwest Corrections and the GEO Group, sets up a difficult ultimatum: Either accept the lower per-prisoner pay rate or face total shutdown. The department currently pays $31.52 per day; the local rate the department wants to pay is $24.39 per day. Legislators will need to approve new appropriations to pay the lowered rate. After the hearing, LeBlanc said that the department has been in communications about the possibility of lower pay rates, but hasn't received word back that LaSalle or GEO would accept the new payment structure.  "I've talked to LaSalle and got a response in writing, and I think it's been positive," LeBlanc said. "GEO we've not heard a definite yet." In addition to the budget cuts, LeBlanc said the department is having difficulty paying for the upkeep of prisons statewide. There are broken windows that need to be fixed and other maintenance issues, he said, that will have to be delayed under the current budget cuts. "This is a business where you're only one phone call away from disaster," LeBlanc said. "It's going to be a significant strain on our prisons to
take that kind of cut at the end of the year."

March 11, 2008 The Advocate
Investigators from the National Transportation Safety Board, the Federal Aviation Administration and the Vermilion Parish Sheriff’s Office continue to investigate a single-engine plane crash that killed two people Monday night, including Lafayette businessman and civic leader Patrick LeBlanc. LeBlanc, 53, of Youngsville, co-owner of LCS Corrections Services, and a pilot from Opelousas were killed in a plane crash Monday night near Abbeville. Jason Aguilera, an air safety investigator with the National Transportation Safety Board, has identified the plane as a Cessna 210. Aguilera said an initial investigation indicates the pilot, believed to be R. Solomon Reed. 60, of Pavy Road in Opelousas, was attempting to land in Lafayette. The crash happened on La. 82 in Vermilion Parish. The flight originated in Jackson, Miss., the Vermilion Parish Sheriff's Office said. LeBlanc was a leader in the Lafayette Jaycees, was active in the Acadiana Home Builders Association and last fall ran an unsuccessful campaign for state House of Representatives District 43.

Louisiana Correctional Services Center, Clarks Louisiana
A story in Thursday's The News-Star should have said inmate Bruce Lanehart escaped from Louisiana Correctional Services Correctional Center, a private prison in Clarks.  (Ouachita, April 9, 2004)

Louisiana Legislature

October 21, 2007 The Advertiser
The involvement of his opponent's company in a Texas jail contract investigation may have helped Page Cortez capture the House District 43 race in Saturday's election. Complete but unofficial returns show Cortez, R-Lafayette, with 7,742 or 55 percent of the vote and Patrick LeBlanc, R-Youngsville, with 6,218 or 45 percent. Cortez replaces state Rep. Ernie Alexander, R-Lafayette, who chose not to seek re-election to the District 43 seat. "I'm tickled to death that it turned out the way it did," Cortez said Saturday night. "I think that ultimately the people of District 43 said their priorities are roads, ethics and teamwork." Cortez is the owner and operator of La-Z-Boy Furniture Galleries and Stoma's Furniture in Lafayette. He previous worked as a teacher and coached at Catholic High of New Iberia and Lafayette High. LeBlanc, 53, owns and operates LCS Corrections Services, a private jail company, as well as Premier Management Enterprises, which provides commissary services to jails in Texas, Louisiana and Alabama. He also has been associated with the architectural firm The LeBlanc Group and LeBlanc Construction Company. This race heated up in recent weeks when unopposed state Sen. Mike Michot, R-Lafayette, and unopposed state Rep. Joel Robideaux, I-Lafayette, through their political organization Leadership for Louisiana, ran ads opposing LeBlanc's candidacy because of the Texas investigation. The Bexar County, Texas, sheriff resigned and pleaded guilty to accepting a free trip to Costa Rica from LeBlanc and his brother, and not reporting the contribution. The sheriff's campaign manager also pled guilty for accepting donations from LeBlanc's company to a phony charity, then pocketing the money. The FBI continues to investigate interstate aspects of a commissary contract the LeBlancs had with the Bexar County jail.

October 10, 2007 The Advertiser
Ethics reform is the buzzword of the fall 2007 election cycle. Everybody from the gubernatorial candidates to state House and Senate candidates have jumped on the bandwagon calling for sweeping ethics reforms. The two candidates for House District 43 in Lafayette Parish are no different. Both said they support ethics reform. Page Cortez, R-Lafayette, and Patrick LeBlanc, R-Youngsville, both newcomers to politics, signed the Blueprint Louisiana contract, which calls for adoption of the best ethics laws in the nation. But ethics is at the heart of this particular race for another reason. Premier Management Enterprises, a company LeBlanc co-owns with his brother, Mike, is involved in a Texas investigation that took down a sheriff and the sheriff's campaign manager. The FBI continues to investigate. Bexar County, Texas, Sheriff Ralph Lopez was forced to resign and pled guilty to three misdemeanor charges: gift to a public servant, failure to report a gift and tampering with a governmental record. Some time after Premier Management Enterprises was awarded a contract to provide commissary services to Bexar County prisoners, the LeBlancs took Lopez and other sheriffs on a golfing trip to Costa Rica. Patrick LeBlanc has said the trip was a conference of several sheriffs his company conducts business with to discuss escape attempts, gang threats and the lockup of immigrants. The LeBlancs also own LCS Corrections Services, which operates private jails in Louisiana, Texas and Alabama. Some of them have experienced escapes by prisoners. As part of an Aug. 31 plea agreement, Lopez agreed to provide information to the Texas Rangers, FBI, District Attorney's Office and others about all transactions, legal and illegal, involving, among others, Michael LeBlanc, Patrick LeBlanc and Premier Management Enterprises. On Sept. 25, Lopez's campaign manager, John Wayne Reynolds, who chaired a benevolent fund board that awarded the LeBlancs the commissary contract, pled guilty to three counts of pocketing more than $22,000 in checks Premier Management had made payable to the Optimist Club Scholarship Fund. The Bexar County District Attorney did not file charges against the LeBlancs. Documents show Ian Williamson, who was a one-third owner in Premier Management at the time, signed the checks given to Reynolds. Patrick LeBlanc said Williamson is no longer a partner in the company. LeBlanc maintains he and his company are innocent of wrongdoing. He said the sheriff was at fault for not reporting the Costa Rica trip. Trips like that are just a part of doing business, he said. "There is nothing unethical or inappropriate about taking clients on trips, be it public or private," LeBlanc said. His company was duped by Reynolds, LeBlanc said. They believed they were donating to a legitimate organization, he said. In late September, the Bexar District Attorney's Office completed its case and turned it over to the FBI. FBI spokesman Erik Vasys told The Daily Advertiser the investigation is ongoing. There are interstate aspects of the case, such as letters, e-mail and telephone communications, that crossed state lines and are still under investigation. He was unable to say more. "Nowhere in ... the official public record that they used to get the plea deal do they mention my involvement in any way other than as a stockholder in this company," LeBlanc said. "You don't see them investigating me, questioning me, calling me a target." Interviewed Friday, LeBlanc again said elected officials should be able to accept free trips if they are approved by the ethics commission and are for legitimate reasons. While both House District 43 candidates say they're for ethics reform, they seem to disagree to some extent on what it means. Cortez disagrees with LeBlanc's assertion that doing business with government is the same as doing business with oilfield companies. "To try and woo somebody with gifts and money and trips, the taxpayers ultimately pay for that," he said. Cortez said legislators should be required to provide full financial disclosure for themselves and their families, making is clear where they derive their money and whether they have state contracts or do business with the state. Then full disclosure needs to be applied to local governments, he said. "What is ethics reform?" LeBlanc said Friday. "It's an overused word. The bottom line is we need to provide more teeth to ethics laws so they can be enforced."

Gov. Kathleen Blanco collected more than $1 million from private corporations and individuals to spend on her inauguration activities and in her transition to the governor's office, according to figures released Wednesday. The Corrections Corporation of America, which runs the Winn Correctional Center in Winnfield for the state Department of Corrections, donated $5,000. Wackenhut Corrections, which runs the Allen Correctional Center in Kinder, donated $10,000. LCS Corrections Services, which owns a private prison in Basile, contributed $4,000. (Times Picayune, March 18, 2004)

Madison Parish Correctional Center  
Oct 27, 2021 theadvocate.com
Lawsuit: Multiple inmates stabbed at Louisiana prison where guards were indifferent to safety

Three inmates were stabbed at a local jail run by a private prison company because staff were deliberately indifferent to their safety, a new lawsuit claims. Attorneys with the Roderick and Solange MacArthur Justice Center and Casey Denson Law say inmates at the Madison Parish Correctional Center in Tallulah were able to attack each other repeatedly over the span of five months. They blame a lack of oversight in the prison, which is managed by North Louisiana-based LaSalle Management. Beginning in 2014, the Madison Parish Sheriff contracted with LaSalle to run the facility - one of several local jails across the state run by the company. The jail also houses sentenced prisoners with the Department of Corrections. When inmates James Murray, Latavius Paschal and Antoine Henderson arrived at the jail to await trial, the lawsuit says they were housed with belligerent DOC inmates as well as pre-trial detainees with track records of attacking newcomers. Murray was stabbed first, following "increasing tensions, attacks, and stabbings" in a unit housing both pre-trial detainees and DOC inmates, the lawsuit says. No guard ran to his aid, and he was later taken to the hospital for fear he had a punctured lung. The inmates held responsible for the stabbing "were known to present a serious risk of harm to other prisoners and detainees," the lawsuit says, but they were still housed with people awaiting trial. Even when the jail reassigned inmates to a single unit called "J-Dorm," making it pre-trial only, there were still problems, according to the complaint. The jail "held every pre-trial detainee at MPCC on one dorm without regard to age, behavioral history, custody needs, pending charge, enemies, or any special needs," the lawsuit says. "In the complete absence of any classification system for pre-trial detainees, J-Dorm became an increasingly violent unit." A group of 12 Tallulah inmates housed in J-Dorm regularly attacked those not from the area, according to the complaint. Several of these inmates "openly beat" Murray and stole his possessions after his first attack. Paschal was stabbed repeatedly with a knife, slipped in his own blood and fell to the floor, where several Tallulah inmates continued to stab him, the lawsuit says. Henderson, another inmate, had to bang on the dorm door for 15 minutes until a guard responded after he was attacked by several of the Tallulah inmates. The second time they attacked him, he was stabbed despite trying to flee the dorm. The attorneys claim LaSalle staff, at various times, were slow to respond to attacks, failed to write incident reports after altercations, bullied the inmates targeted and spent little time in violent dorms monitoring the inmates. All three men were sent to lockdown after their attacks, where they were not given the chance to exercise and artificial lights remained on 24 hours a day. Despite these conditions, the complaint says the inmates asked to be placed there to avoid J-Dorm. DOC secretary Jimmy LeBlanc, Madison Parish Sheriff Sammie Byrd and LaSalle Management are named as defendants in the lawsuit, along with more than 10 other employees at the jail.  "Secretary LeBlanc, Sheriff Byrd, and all of the LaSalle employees were deliberately indifferent to the people in their care," said Elizabeth Cumming, attorney at the Roderick and Solange MacArthur Justice Center. "They knew that the conditions they created at MPCC were fatally dangerous, but they failed to correct that danger and Mr. Paschal, Mr. Henderson and Mr. Murray were seriously injured as a result." Scott Sutterfield, a spokesperson for LaSalle, declined to comment on pending litigation. However, he said the company "is firmly committed to the health and welfare of those in our care." DOC spokesperson Ken Pastorick also declined to comment while the lawsuit remains open. Sheriff Byrd did not respond to a request for comment. The inmates were attacked after four different stabbings were reported in January and May of 2020, the lawsuit says. Pre-trial detainees and DOC inmates were housed in the same unit. Between Sept. 2020 and October 2020, three inmates died; one from complications after a fight, another from multiple stab wounds to the chest and the last from an undetermined cause. "Even though the State knows that LaSalle creates conditions that cause people to get hurt and die in prisons it operates, the State has abandoned over a quarter of the people in its custody to these dangerous facilities without oversight," Cumming said. The attorneys argue the inmates' rights to due process and equal protection were violated, among other grievances.


Nueces County Jail, Nueces County, Texas
June 2, 2010 KRIS TV
A Taft man who was detained at the LCS Detention Center in Robstown died this past Saturday. Warden Mike Striedel said 27-year-old Leo Guajardo died from a brain tumor. Striedel said Guajardo had been at the detention center since January for taking the weapon of a U.S. Marshal. Striedel says Guajardo saw a doctor Friday afternoon for high blood pressure, he was immediately put on medication, but a couple hours later he claimed to feel dizzy. The Warden says he was taken to the hospital and doctors found a massive brain tumor. His condition worsened and eventually he was put on life support. Striedel says the family decided to take him off life support Saturday night and he was pronounced dead. The Texas Rangers will investigate the incident to make sure everyone at the detention center did what they could to help Guajardo. The man's family is not ready to make a statement yet, as they are preparing for Guajardo's funeral.

February 27, 2009 Caller-Times
Nueces County and the U.S. Marshals Service agreed to a deal to put federal prisoners in the privately owned LCS detention facility in Robstown, which last month laid off half its staff when it sat empty. Nueces County sends federal prisoners to an LCS facility in Hidalgo County in exchange for $2 per prisoner per day. The prison receives about $44 a day per prisoner. On Thursday, the county signed an addendum to the contract, allowing the Robstown facility to house federal prisoners, County Judge Loyd Neal said, but it won’t be paid for it initially.

January 24, 2009 Caller-Times
LCS Corrections Services laid off half of its Robstown detention center employees Friday because federal authorities have yet to transfer in prisoners, but the company plans to offer jobs to some elsewhere. LCS, a private Lafayette, La.-based prison company, expected to have a full house at its 1,100-bed facility shortly after the prison opened in mid-November, but the center remains empty after a contract with the federal government stalled, said Dick Harbison, LCS vice president of operations. Of the 35 correctional officers laid off, six will be offered positions at the LCS detention facility in Brooks County, Harbison said. Short on correctional officers, Nueces County Jail will offer jobs to 14 others, county officials said. Fifteen temporarily will be left without jobs, Harbison said. To start the intake of federal prisoners from agencies such as the U.S. Marshals Service, Immigration and Customs Enforcement and the U.S. Border Patrol, LCS needs Nueces County to sign an agreement with marshals that will outline how much the federal government will pay for housing their prisoners. Congress also must pass a 2009 budget, which should occur when a continuing resolution allowing the federal government to operate under its 2008 budget expires in early March. The prison company intends to rehire the laid-off employees and hire additional staff once prisoners start arriving, Harbison said. Nueces County spent millions to clean up its jail's substandard conditions that led to the June 2006 removal of federal prisoners. The federal inmates haven't returned. County officials have been negotiating since January 2008 for a higher fee to house them at the jail. The contract also will include fees for housing federal prisoners at two LCS facilities. Because the federal government doesn't deal with private detention contractors, LCS is dependent on a "pass through" contract, where the county gets a share of fees charged per prisoner for passing through overflow federal prisoners to the company's private facilities in Hidalgo County and Robstown. Nueces County Judge Loyd Neal said Friday that the county, the U.S. Marshals Service and LCS are in agreement on new rates for the jail and the LCS facilities. He wouldn't disclose the negotiated rates. The proposed fees are awaiting review and approval from the Office of the Federal Detention Trustee, which oversees federal detention programs. The county, which received a $45.15 daily rate per prisoner prior to their removal from the county jail, was seeking a raise to $61.49. County officials previously have said that negotiations were stuck at about $53 a day per prisoner. "The marshals and I have agreed on that rate. We have worked with LCS, and they agree it is very favorable," Neal said. "We did this several months ago, and we have been unable to get any kind of funding out of the federal government. Until the new Congress and President (Barack) Obama reach an agreement (on a budget) there is no money available for a new arrangement for federal prisoners." The county receives $2 a day for each prisoner sent to LCS' Hidalgo County facility, and LCS earns roughly $43. A similar pass through deal is in the works for the Robstown facility once the county and the federal government sign off on new rates. "The minute we hear anything at all we will be contacting everybody to come back to work," Harbison said.

September 9, 2007 San Antonio Express-News
Bexar County Sheriff Ralph Lopez and some of his friends weren't the only ones in South Texas who enjoyed the benefits of helping Premier Management Enterprises secure lucrative jail commissary contracts, according to interviews and records examined by the San Antonio Express-News. Like Lopez, the sheriffs of two other counties awarded contracts to the Louisiana jail services company, and either they or their associates reaped financial benefits. Those sheriffs, now out of office, also boasted to their staffs about going on a golf and fishing trip to Costa Rica with Premier officials, the same trip that last week forced Lopez to resign. Here in Kleberg County, then-Sheriff Tony Gonzalez, a close friend of Lopez, gave Premier a contract to run his jail commissary when he was in office in 2004 and has been paid by the company for consulting work of an unknown nature. "I've done some consulting for them here and there," Gonzalez told the Express-News during a brief interview at his ranch-style home on the outskirts of Kingsville, declining to elaborate. "I'm just down here keeping my nose clean." In Nueces County, one associate of former Sheriff Larry Olivarez, another Lopez friend, reaped rewards after helping Premier win a jail commissary contract there in 2005. The associate, a commercial real estate broker who was appointed by the sheriff to an ad hoc committee that awarded the contract, later earned a commission from the sale of 56 acres where LCS Corrections Services Inc., another company owned in part by Premier's principals, is building a private detention center, the Express-News has learned. In addition, the former sheriff's chief deputy won political backing from LCS when he ran as a candidate to replace Olivarez, who had stepped down to run for county judge. Premier, which has come up repeatedly in an ongoing public corruption investigation in Bexar County for doing favors for influential people in a position to help the company, has denied any wrongdoing. That investigation, so far, has narrowly targeted only individuals in Bexar County, such as Lopez and his longtime campaign manager, John Reynolds, and Reynolds' financial relationship with the sheriff's wife. Lopez, Reynolds and at least one of their associates helped Premier land the local jail food commissary contract in 2005. As part of an immunity deal with Bexar County District Attorney Susan Reed, the sheriff resigned, effective Sept. 19, and pleaded no contest Tuesday to three misdemeanor charges, two of which were related to the Costa Rica golf outing he accepted from Premier. The deal protected him from further state prosecution; his wife wasn't indicted. Reynolds, who played a key role in awarding the contract to Premier, is suspected by Reed of bribery, extortion, theft, money laundering and campaign finance violations. He also went on the Costa Rica trip and received checks totaling more than $30,000 from Premier and one of its owners for consulting and donations to fake charities Reynolds set up. An associate of both Reynolds and the sheriff, John E. Curran, voted with Reynolds on a jail board to give Premier the commissary contract, then won a contract himself from Premier to provide temporary workers for the operation. Largely unexamined is the broader picture of how Premier, its owners, Patrick and Michael LeBlanc, and LCS conducted a business expansion with local government partners throughout South Texas. A closer look at some of those operations reveals similarities in conduct with local officials that have drawn none of the law enforcement or media scrutiny seen in Bexar County. Nueces County Sheriff Jim Kaelin, who succeeded Olivarez, is among those who have been watching the news from San Antonio with keen interest because LCS is about to open an 800-bed prison in his county. So far, no law enforcement agency has contacted him, Kaelin said. Close relationships -- LeBlanc-run companies Premier and LCS operate jail-related businesses in five South Texas counties. The first started in Brooks County in 2000. They have embarked on an aggressive expansion in recent years that has capitalized on tighter federal immigration control policies. In addition to the work at Bexar County Jail, the companies also operate jails, commissaries or full-scale prisons in Brooks, Kleberg, Hidalgo and Nueces counties. They also run four jails in the LeBlancs' home state of Louisiana and one in Alabama. Current Texas law makes sheriffs key gatekeepers for contracts such as those sought by Premier and to a certain extent by the prison-building LCS. Under current law, Texas sheriffs have almost unchecked authority to contract management of their commissaries with no competitive bidding. County commissioners must approve deals to build private prisons but often keep their sheriffs closely in the loop as resident overseers and advisers. Premier, LCS or sometimes both arrived in counties served by sheriffs who maintained close personal relationships with one another and with Bexar County's Lopez, according to interviews with personnel in several offices. Lopez's office calendar for the past few years shows he often traveled to visit Kleberg's Gonzalez on weekends for golfing and that Gonzalez traveled to San Antonio. The calendar also shows a number of trips to visit Olivarez in Corpus Christi, where he still lives in a house near a golf course. At the Kleberg County Sheriff's Office, Gonzalez's former staffers say the three were often joined in golfing and hunting outings by other sheriffs and elected officials in counties where Premier or LCS are doing business today. Among them was Balde Lozano of Brooks County, who did not return three calls for this story. "He kept a close-knit circle of friends," said Yvonne Barbour, Gonzalez's former office administrator. "I know Tony was a big golfer." Those relationships would later prove mutually beneficial for the Louisiana companies and the sheriffs or their friends. Gonzalez, for instance, used his relationships in Nueces County to help Premier and LCS gain entrance there. Assistant Deputy Chief Peter B. Peralta, who worked in the office when LSC first began courting county business, remembered that it was Gonzalez who made the introductions. Later, Gonzalez approved giving Premier a food commissary contract for his jail during his final weeks in office. At some point either before or after Gonzalez left office in late 2004, he accepted private consulting work from Premier's owners, he and a company official acknowledged. When Gonzalez transferred the commissary contract to Premier, two lifelong Kingsville residents, brothers who run a small local grocery, felt the pain. Betos Community Grocery had held the contract since the 1970s and had come to rely on the modest commissary revenue as competition from large grocery stores cut into Betos' bottom line. They were told they should only bid for the contract if they had a sophisticated computer system. "We didn't even get one computer until last year," said Juan Garza, who co-owns the grocery with his brother Albert and supported Gonzalez's last failed re-election bid. "It hurt." It remains unclear what kind of consulting work Gonzalez did for the company or when it started. But former five-term Brooks County Judge Joe B. Garcia recalled one occasion — after Gonzalez lost his election — that he came calling, apparently after hearing that Garcia had begun agitating for Brooks County to renegotiate better terms from its LCS detention center contract. It was during this time that Gonzalez phoned Garcia wanting to meet for lunch and talk about local LCS operations. "I've known Tony for a while. But I didn't want to talk to him about my contract with LCS," Garcia said. Garcia remembered another story he found disturbing, when Michael LeBlanc himself showed up at his office, accompanied by the man Garcia had just beaten in the election. That LeBlanc would travel to South Texas was not unusual; he often has personally tended to his business affairs. But Garcia said what he heard made him feel uncomfortable. "They said if I had a campaign debt, they would contribute to my campaign," Garcia said. He said he told them he had no campaign debt to pay off and wouldn't have accepted the offer even if he did. "A lot of people try to do those type of things," Garcia said. "I've always been the type who, hey, I've worked hard for my education. I don't have fancy cars, no ranches." Attorneys for LCS and Premier have declined all requests for interviews regarding the ongoing investigation in Bexar County or for this report. Last year, the LeBlancs sued the Express-News, alleging they were libeled in articles the paper published in late 2005. The lawsuit is pending. But Chris Burch, chief executive officer of Premier, acknowledged that Gonzalez had done some consulting work for the company under an arrangement with a predecessor, Ian Williamson, who is no longer with the company. Burch said he was not privy to any details about that work. Gonzalez still may be working for the company as a paid consultant, Burch said. "I do know he has done some consulting work, but I'm not the one who put this together." Benefits and campaign -- Like Gonzalez, then-Nueces County Sheriff Olivarez helped Premier land a commissary deal in his jail during his final days in office in late 2005. He then quit, as required, to run for county judge. During his time as sheriff, LCS had a "pass through" contract with Nueces to refer federal prisoners to its other Texas facilities, and it advanced a proposal to build the 800-bed detention center, now nearing completion. The project is expected to generate $800,000 for the county in inmate transfer payments, plus $350,000 to $400,000 in taxes. The Express-News has learned an ally of Olivarez benefited financially from LCS' effort to build the detention center — after helping the sheriff give the jail commissary contract to Premier. Corpus Christi commercial real estate broker and developer Tim Clower served in late 2005 on an ad hoc selection committee the sheriff appointed to examine bids for the commissary management job, according to the office of Kaelin, the current sheriff. In February 2006, several months after Clower voted for the commissary contract, he brokered a real estate purchase of 56.6 acres on behalf of LCS for the $20 million detention center. The property's seller, Patricia Ann Bernsen, said Clower's company approached her and brokered the purchase of her farmland for $4,000 an acre, or $225,000. "He did get a commission, that's for sure," Bernsen said, declining to say how much. "It was a good commission." On average, commercial real estate agents earn between 6 percent and 10 percent, according to one South Texas commercial real estate broker. At the time of the sale, the 2006 sheriff's primary race was heating up. Clower co-signed for a $20,000 campaign loan to Olivarez's former chief deputy, Jimmy Rodriguez, whose opponent at the time was publicly criticizing him for helping bring LCS to town. LCS went to Rodriguez's aid by lambasting his opponent. At one point in the campaign, LCS went public with a threat to halt construction of its detention center if Rodriguez did not win the Democratic primary. "We're not going to work with or for someone who doesn't respect our company," Michael LeBlanc was quoted in the Corpus Christi Caller-Times as saying about Rodriguez's opponent. "If Mr. (Pete) Alvarez wins, we're out of Nueces County — plain and simple," LeBlanc said. Rodriguez won the primary but lost the general election. Last week, he insisted that he was paying off the $20,000 bank loan he said Clower co-signed. "He's been a friend for a long time," Olivarez's former chief deputy said of Clower. "He had a long history with the department before we even got there." Clower did not return repeated calls seeking comment about the loan or his commission on the LCS land purchase. Traveling together -- The Express-News could not substantiate or refute comments from those in the Sheriff's Office that Olivarez, while he was sheriff, went on the same Costa Rica trip in August 2005 with Lopez, Reynolds and Premier officials. Olivarez did not return numerous phone calls or respond to a message left during a visit to his home. Kaelin said Olivarez boasted of the Costa Rica trip and a separate hunting trip to employees who remain on staff. Kleberg's Gonzalez, while in office, also told some of his staff of going on the same Costa Rica trip, said Kleberg Sheriff Ed Mata, who beat Gonzalez in the 2004 election. Mata conceded that he can't prove the story, but he wondered why no one has investigated as in Bexar County. Gonzalez, during the recent interview at his home near Kingsville, was asked several times if he would deny going on the trip. He declined each time. The Costa Rica trip was not the only reputed benefit Kaelin heard about in regard to Olivarez. Shortly after taking office, Kaelin said, a staff person phoned him to report that Olivarez had appeared with a small group of businesspeople seeking to tour the detention center project. Kaelin said he was told that Olivarez had represented himself as an "unpaid spokesperson for LCS." Kaelin called LCS officials to inquire as to whether Olivarez might have been hired to run the detention center, a prospect Kaelin worried would undermine his office's working relationship with it. But he was told Olivarez had no known connection to the company or employment prospects. Bexar Sheriff Lopez's office calendar indicates he planned to attend the detention center groundbreaking with Olivarez on Feb. 23, 2006, after Olivarez had left office to run, unsuccessfully it turned out, for judge. Today, Olivarez works as a manager for the Corpus Christi branch of CGT Law Group International, according to a woman who answered the phone there. Richard Harbison, a vice president in charge of LCS' Texas operations, is certain that Olivarez has had no financial relationship with LCS. As he was preparing to take his own vacation to Costa Rica, Harbison also said by phone that he was unaware of any paid trips involving sheriffs in Texas and the LeBlancs. Burch, of Premier, said he was not working for the company at the time of the August 2005 trip. In Bexar County, where the public corruption investigation has been in high gear lately, District Attorney Susan Reed has said she is mainly interested in prosecuting local individuals such as Reynolds, whom she called "rotten fruit." None of Premier's San Antonio offices have been searched, Reed acknowledged. "I'm not finished, so I'm not ready to make any definitive determination yet" about Premier, she said. The FBI and Texas Rangers, which have been involved in the Bexar County investigation, aren't commenting. Patrick LeBlanc, who last week formally became a candidate for the Louisiana Legislature, is running in part on a message that he will fight against political corruption that "robs us of our confidence in government." Last week, he told the Lafayette Advocate that he has been cooperating with investigators in Bexar County but couldn't elaborate. "We haven't done anything wrong," he told the newspaper. "I would never, ever risk my integrity over selling candy bars and potato chips."

July 14, 2006 Correctional News
Concern over conditions at the Nueces County Jail resulted in the removal of 55 federal inmates — a potential loss of nearly $1 million in revenue for the county. County commissioners grew concerned after complaints of clogged plumbing, lack of water and insect bites were brought forth by inmates housed in the aging facility. Officials say that the facility requires renovations and have ordered a full report on all reported problems. The U.S. Marshals Service, which pays the county $45 per day to house federal inmates, transferred the prisoners to facilities in Aransas, Jim Wells, Victoria, Karnes, Bee and Brooks counties.

April 13, 2006 Caller-Times
The county's deal to build a $20 million detention center near Robstown is on no matter what the outcome of November's general election between sheriff candidates Jimmy Rodriguez, a Democrat, and Republican Jim Kaelin. LCS Correction Services Inc. officials said earlier this week they'd pull out if former police chief Pete Alvarez was elected as the Democrats' nominee for county sheriff in Tuesday's primary runoff, but after Rodriguez's win, the company's CEO says plans will move forward. "The dust will be flying out there in late May or early June," said Michael LeBlanc, chief executive officer. The company expressed reservations about the project after hearing ads supporting Alvarez refer to a Louisiana-based corrections firm that owns facilities where rapes and beatings occur. The ad said Rodriguez helped bring the company, which was not named in the advertisement, to the area. LCS is based in Louisiana. "We're not going to work with or for someone who doesn't respect our company," LeBlanc said Monday. "If Mr. Alvarez wins, we're out of Nueces County - plain and simple." The facility would house federal inmates awaiting trial and is expected to bring in about $800,000 for inmate transfers, plus $350,000 to $400,000 in taxes. LCS broke ground on a federal detention facility between Robstown and Driscoll last month. Alvarez said Wednesday that LSC should not have discussed the candidates leading up to the runoff, calling it unethical. "My problem is they got involved," he said. Rodriguez said last week he hoped LSC would remain committed to the Nueces County project. "We need it," he said.

April 9, 2006 KRIS TV
The company proposing a detention center in Robstown has issued an ultimatum that could effect the outcome of the Democratic runoff for sheriff. Friday evening, LCS Correctional Services confirmed to 6 News that if Pete Alvarez defeats Jimmy Rodriguez in the runoff on Tuesday, they won't build a federal detention center here in Nueces County. Thursday, company officials told 6 News they wouldn't make that kind of announcement until after the election, but they've obviously changed their minds. Here's how it works, LCS wants to house federal inmates. But those inmates technically would go through the Nueces County Jail First, before being sent to the LCS Detention Center near Robstown. The company said if there's a Nueces County Sheriff that doesn't have confidence in the LCS operation, the inmates won't be sent to the private jail and the company doesn't make money. It is the latest controversy in a race that seems to have had plenty already. "If Pete gets elected, they will pull out," said sheriff's Jimmy Rodriguez. He announced the company's ultimatum during a live debate on the cable show "South Texas Politics". He said the company's president told him that just a short time beforehand. He blames the campaign ads of Pete Alvarez that questioned LCS's history of escapes and cases of abuse. "If you had a company, and somebody attacked you and told lies about you and incited the community to turn against you, and not to want you, I don't know if I would come here either," Rodriguez said.

April 6, 2006 KRIS TV
LULAC claims a private prison company that county leaders approved poses a danger to the community. LCS Correctional Services is planning to build a large detention center in western Nueces County. Leaders of LULAC Thursday called it a bad move, but supporters of the project said the complaint is merely for political gain in the runoff election next week. At the news conference Thursday afternoon, the president of LULAC said the community is tired of all the mudslinging in the sheriff's race. But moments later she questioned one candidate's involvement in what LULAC considers a deal that threatens public safety. "We want to bring public attention to a potentially dangerous situation brewing in Nueces County," said Nancy Vera. That situation is a federal detention center being built between Robstown and Driscoll. Officials broke ground on it back in February, but LULAC President Nancy Vera says LCS has a history the public should know about. "We have discovered some very disturbing information." Vera said. She claims LCS Correctional services has experienced numerous escapes and cases of prisoner abuse. Vera is asking the commissioners court and in particular Jimmy Rodriguez why those issues were never discussed. 6 News asked Jimmy Rodriguez if he felt LCS was a legitimate company. Rodriguez replied, "I think LCS spoke for themselves. They're a reputable company." Rodriguez said the idea that he had any direct involvement in the LSC contract is completely misleading. He said it's just a political attack on a company trying to make a large investment in the area. "$20 million investing, 300 jobs, this is good for the economy, and to have it all put in jeopardy because of incompetency is tragic," Rodriguez said. "The commissioners court met with LCS, reviewed LCS, and awarded LCS. They thought it was a good thing. They handled the contract."

April 5, 2006 Caller-Times
The latest political mudfest in the race for Nueces County sheriff is originating in Pete Alvarez's political camp. Alvarez's new "Bad Jimmy" television ads, claim that his opponent Jimmy Rodriguez is responsible for the recent erroneous release of six jail inmates and that Rodriguez is responsible for a series of lawsuits filed against Nueces County over problems with the jail. Another Alvarez ad has raised questions about whether a Louisiana prison administrator might ditch a plan to build a detention facility in the county. The ad doesn't name the company in question, but says a Louisiana-based company the county has contracted with has an unsatisfactory record with the treatment of its inmates. The ad is aimed at the sheriff's department's administration for its advocacy of the company. Last month LCS Correction Services Inc. broke ground on a federal detention facility between Robstown and Driscoll. The facility, under contract with Nueces County, is expected to bring in about $800,000 for inmate transfers, plus $350,000 to $400,000 in taxes. A statement released by the company said the owners were upset by the ad. "We admit the operations of prisons do not create a perfect world because we deal daily with imperfect people," Chief Executive Officer Michael LeBlanc said in the statement. "But there has never been a death or a suicide at any LCS Corrections facility in the Company's 16-year history." Company officials refused to comment on whether the ad has now jeopardized the plans to build the corrections facility, saying it might unfairly impact the election. Nueces County Precinct 4 Commissioner Chuck Cazalas said he didn't understand why Alvarez's ad targeted Rodriguez for something former Sheriff Larry Olivarez championed. He also said everything he knew about LCS indicated they were a quality firm. "I think they are supposed to be a good company. Everything I heard about them was pretty good," Cazalas said. "I understand . . . that the company is supposedly thinking of pulling out." Alvarez said his ads are a response to ads Rodriguez is running. The Rodriguez campaign says they did not fire the first negative campaign volley, but they are preparing to fire back, with new ads targeting Alvarez's record as police chief. "Pete's radio spot hitting on jail releases was first," said Rodriguez's campaign consultant Jeff Butler. "We had a response saying, 'No it's not true.' He hit us first, so we responded and it went from there." Alvarez denied that his team was first on the assault. "I tried my best to keep a professional and clean campaign and they decided to throw the garbage out," he said. "And we have to defend ourselves. This is not something we initiated from the beginning. The public needs to understand that what is being said about me is simply not true." The Rodriguez campaign contends that ads they are running against Alvarez are "infomercials" based on research and news stories outlining Alvarez's record that have run on television and in the newspaper in the past, Butler said. Butler said the Rodriguez camp is not responsible for an anti-Alvarez flier mailed in February by political action committee Citizens for Nueces County that may have sparked some of the rancor in the campaign. The flier said Alvarez was more than a million dollars over budget as police chief in 2001, that he tried to cover up an incident where his son was driving drunk, that he had been sued for misconduct and retaliation and that he had plagiarized a strategic plan. Butler said Tuesday the campaign also did not put out a new flier that came out this week saying Alvarez treats women like second-class citizens. The flier cites a Caller-Times article about a grievance filed by female Corpus Christi police officers, who said Alvarez had "relegated them to second-class status." Alvarez would not comment on specific allegations Tuesday but reiterated that neither flier is true. The only member of the political action committee listed in campaign filings is Roland Gaona, who could not be reached for comment Tuesday. Though Alvarez and Rodriguez would not take responsibility for throwing the first mud, both campaigns said Tuesday they are prepared to duke it out to the last - the April 11 runoff. Rodriguez said he hopes the nastiness won't get any worse. Butler nodded in response to whether he thought the campaign would get any nastier and nodded again that the Rodriguez team is ready for battle. "I knew the only way they could win was to go negative on us," Butler said. "Especially after the primary when Pete only got 40 percent. Everybody knew who Pete was. His 40 percent told me that 60 percent of the voters were voting against him." Alvarez said future ads from his camp will come from watching what Rodriguez does and then responding. "We have to strategize," Alvarez said. "This is a campaign, a political campaign. We have to defend ourselves, or the public will begin to believe the nonsense his campaign has come out with."

Perry County Correctional and Rehabilitation Center, Uniontown, Alabama
April 22, 2010 AP
The Alabama Legislature has given final passage to a bill that clears the way for the state to buy a private prison in Perry County. The House voted 82-16 to approve the bill that would permit the state to issue $60 million in bonds to buy the Perry County Correctional Center and to renovate it. The Senate voted 19-0 to go along with changes made to the bill in the House. The private prison is located near Uniontown in Perry County in an economically depressed area. The prison is designed for 750 inmates, but can be expanded to handle 1,500. The sponsor, Democratic Rep. John Knight of Montgomery, said the prison is needed because of overcrowding in the state prison system.

April 17, 2010 Gadsden Times
The state is negotiating to buy the privately owned Perry County prison and is one step away from getting the money to buy it. A bill authorizing a $60 million bond issue on the House calendar and is in position to pass in the final two days of the 2010 legislative session next week. Sen. Lowell Barron, D-Fyffe, is sponsoring the bill for the Department of Corrections. “Corrections is interested because we are so overcrowded,” Barron said. “They’re interested in buying it as well as expanding it.” Barron’s sponsorship of the bill for Gov. Bob Riley is not that controversial even though they have butted heads politically. But an aspect of the bill puts Barron at odds with previous statements about Riley. He has vociferously and publicly lambasted Riley for a so-called no-bid $13 million computer system upgrade contract. He even sponsored bills this session to limit non-competitive bidding. Barron’s prison bond issue bill strikes out the original requirement that the prison bond issue be competitively bid. Barron said he talked to an independent financial expert he trusts who has no ties to the administration about bidding versus negotiating. “I talked with an investment bank house and they said it’s not always the best, especially when it’s not the most favorable conditions,” he said. “It doesn’t square with my political stand, but on this one time a competitive bid may not be the best.” Riley spokesman Jeff Emerson didn’t directly respond to Barron’s apparent about-face. “The bill doesn’t mandate a bid, but Gov. Riley will make sure it goes through a competitive process if the bill becomes law,” he said in a Friday e-mail. Richard Harbison is executive vice president of LCS Corrections Services Inc., which owns the prison near Uniontown. “Let’s just say we’re talking to the state of Alabama,” Harbison said. The Perry County prison houses about 500 inmates but is designed to house 750, Harbison said. He said the facility can be expanded to house up to 1,500 inmates. The state has about 400 inmates there now, a spokesman said.

June 24, 2009 Park Rapids Enterprise
Ashton Mink was arrested after a nearly 14-hour standoff June 6, on a ranch south of Gladstone. Authorities say Mink and his wife, Jacquelin, were wounded in an exchange of gunfire. Authorities say one of four Alabama fugitives has been transferred from a Dickinson hospital to jail. Ashton Mink was arrested after a nearly 14-hour standoff June 6, on a ranch south of Gladstone. Authorities say Mink and his wife, Jacquelin, were wounded in an exchange of gunfire. Stark County Sheriff Clarence Tuhy said Ashton Mink was released Tuesday from a Dickinson hospital and taken to jail. He is awaiting a bail hearing. Jacquelin Mink is hospitalized in Bismarck. The couple along with Ashton Mink's sister Angela and Joshua Southwick, face charges of conspiracy to commit murder and conspiracy to commit robbery. They are accused of robbing a movie store in Dickinson and shooting at a Highway Patrol trooper. Authorities say Southwick and Ashton Mink escaped from an Alabama prison in May and that Angela and Jacquelin Mink helped them.

June 10, 2009 Athens News-Courier
Tom Henning, state’s attorney in Stark County, N.D., said it’s possible the four people accused in an escape from an Alabama prison facility will remain imprisoned in North Dakota for some time. If convicted, the group could serve sentences there before being returned to Alabama to face charges of escape. “Yes, they could end up spending jail time in North Dakota, presuming convictions and at such time as we’re satisfied, then they’ll go back to the demanding state,” he said. Joshua Southwick, who was convicted in the 2003 slaying of a Limestone County man, and Ashton Mink, convicted of attempted murder in a stabbing during a home invasion in Madison, escaped from the Perry County Correctional Facility in Uniontown, Ala., on May 25. U.S. Marshals say Angela Mink, Ashton’s sister, and Jacquelin Mink, his wife, cut the fence from the outside of the private prison facility to help the two get free. The four were captured in Gladstone, N.D., Saturday during a video store robbery. Southwick and Angela gave themselves up but Ashton and Jacquelin held officers at bay for 14 hours. They were shot in the process. Ashton is under armed guard at St. Joseph’s Hospital and Health Center in Dickinson, N.D. His wife is under armed guard at St. Alexius Medical Center in Bismarck, N.D., Henning said. “I have no idea when they will be able to go to court,” he said. “I’d say at least a month.” In the meantime, Southwick and Angela Mink are being held at Southwest Multi-County Correctional Facility, each charged with criminal conspiracy to commit robbery, which carries a 10-year maximum sentence. “It’s entirely likely there will be more charges” stemming from the standoff and shootout, Henning said.

June 9, 2009 Bennington Banner
Vermont officials said Monday they made the right decision in March when the state removed about 80 Vermont inmates from a private, for-profit prison in Alabama where two inmates recently escaped. Needed improvement -- Vermont Department of Corrections Commissioner Andrew Pallito said Vermont pulled the inmates out of the Perry County Correctional Center in Uniontown, Ala., prison, which is run by LCS Corrections Services in March. The first Vermont inmate was transferred to the facility in late December he said. The prison, which has more than 700 beds, had security equipment that did not work and an inadequately trained staff "for what we were asking them to do," Pallito said. "It wasn't what we were after. It wasn't what I would have expected," he said. Pallito said the Department of Corrections leveled several demands on LCS to improve, but did not see action fast enough, and pulled inmates out about two weeks later. State Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Dick Sears, D-Bennington, said he had doubts about the facility before the Vermont inmates were transferred. Once the inmates were moved, Sears said the facility failed to "keep up with things that were in the contract." And there were issues with the "treatment of offenders." "We sent some people down there and there were continued problems. I was very skeptical myself," Sears said. "Turned out there were a lot of problems and they moved them all out." "It was a real loose outfit," Sears added. "There have been some real problems there." The Associated Press reported Monday that two men who escaped from the Perry County Correctional Center on May 25 were recaptured Saturday following a shoot-out with police. According to the Associated Press, Alabama Prison Commissioner Richard Allen said all 250 of Alabama's inmates will be removed from the facility. Allen cited cost, however, not security concerns, as the reason for removing inmates. Pallito said Vermont has an ongoing contract with LCS Corrections Services, but it allows for a "zero minimum," meaning the state can have no inmates at the facility and pay nothing. The contract term is for two years, he said. Inmates housed briefly at the Alabama facility have been moved to facilities in Kentucky or Tennessee run by Corrections Corporation of America. Vermont had a contract with CCA when it looked to diversify as a cost-savings measure. Pallito said CCA agreed to take back the inmates at the $50 per day rate the Alabama facility was charging. It costs the state about $140 per day to house inmates in-state. Vermont currently has about 2,200 inmates and only 1,500 instate beds. The contract with CCA will expire next year, according to Pallito, so the state will need to renegotiate a contract. Pallito said LCS officials have recently tried to persuade the state to send inmates back to the Alabama facility, but that is not likely to happen. "Not at this time, particularly given the recent development of events," he said. "We're interested in talking with other facilities, but I don't think we'll be back with them."

June 8, 2009 Tuscaloosa News
Alabama's prison commissioner says the state will remove about 250 inmates from the private prison where two men recently escaped amid a string of security failures. However, Corrections Commissioner Richard Allen said Monday that money - not the threat of additional escapes - was behind the decision. In an interview Monday with The Associated Press, Allen said his agency can't afford to continue housing 250 inmates at the Perry County Detention Center. An executive at LCS Corrections Inc., which runs the prison, said he knew of the state's plan. He said the company was told the state could place twice as many inmates at the private prison next year if lawmakers approve funding.

June 6, 2009 KFYR TV
Four of America's Most Wanted fugitives were arrested Saturday in western North Dakota. The group started out in Alabama earlier in the week and came to North Dakota where police say they went on a crime spree. By Saturday night, two of the suspects were recovering in a Dickinson-area hospital after being shot by police after a standoff in Gladstone. That was the culmination of a series of crimes that started with a robbery Friday night in Dickinson and included shots being fired at a North Dakota Highway Patrol trooper during a chase. Let's take you back a week and set the stage that led to these events. Police had been looking for 26-year-old Joshua Southwick, and 22-year-old Ashton Mink since they escaped from an Alabama prison on Memorial Day. Mink was serving a 20-year sentence for 1st degree assault. Southwick was serving a life sentence for murder and 1st degree burglary. Authorities say they escaped prison in Alabama by wearing kitchen workers` uniforms The pair allegedly fled through holes that were cut out of the prison fence by Ashton Mink's wife, Jacquelin, and sister Angela Mink. Somewhere along the way, all four made it to North Dakota. The trouble in North Dakota started in Dickinson Friday night around 11:00, when the suspects, two men and two women, robbed a movie rental store. The foursome fled, and a Highway Patrol trooper noticed a suspicious car speeding away. The trooper followed the car onto I-94, and that's when passenger in the suspects` car fired at the trooper. At least one bullet went into the trooper's car. The fleeing car continued east to Gladstone prompting the Highway Patrol to lock down the small town. Authorities blocked off a two-mile section of road leading into town. Police kept an eye on things during as residents were notified of the threat through a reverse 911 system. Gladstone resident Kim Hetzel says, "After we got the automated phone call early this morning, get up, and lock the doors, and kinda just watch out." Authorities found the suspects after the owner of a farmstead noticed the four were staking out in his detached garage. Stark County sheriff Clarence Tuhy says, "They're from the Alabama area; the two males are escapees from a private prison in the Alabama area which were aided in escape by the two females." The perps took refuge in the farmstead's garage as more than a half dozen agencies flocked to the area. About 12 hours later Tuhy says, "A male and a female came out giving up peacefully at which time a male and female came out a side door firing at officers." Officers then fired back, striking both Ashton Mink and his wife, Jacquelin. The couple is being treated at an area hospital. So far, there's no word on the conditions of the two suspects who were shot. No officers were injured, and Joshua Southwick and Angela Mink were taken into custody. "Any time no officers get injured is a good thing," notes Tuhy. But while no officers or residents were hurt physically, it will take a long time for the emotional scars of this almost surreal crime to heal.

June 5, 2009 WAFF
It's been more than week since Joshua Southwick, 26 and Ashton Mink, 22, escaped from a private prison in Perry County. Now there's new information on the two women who helped them escape and what the prison is doing to keep this from happening again. New pictures are surfacing of Angela Diana Mink. A tattoo artist by trade, the pictures show specific tattoos which may assist the public in recognizing her. Tattoos are on both upper and lower arms, and both wrists, plus one at the base of her neck. Perry County prison officials said they believe she and Jacquelin Rae Kennamer Mink cut through an electrical stun fence to help Mink and Southwick escape. It was a single cut that did in fact trip an alarm to alert the control room operator on the prison. "That stun fence, if it's touched, cut or grounded, sets off an alarm in our central control unit," said Richard Harbison, the executive dirctor of the corporation that owns the private prison. "Evidently because of the weather, the alarm after it was sounded, no one went to the fence to check and see if it was cut." And because of that, Harbison said there's been an overhaul at the unit. "We dismissed seven people, two of which were shift captains for failure to carry out correct policies and procedures at the unit," he said. Others included correctional officers and the control room officer that failed to follow proper procedures. "We have proper procedures in place to ensure that something like this doesn't happen. If you fail to follow those proper procedures, then you more likely to have an escape such as this one," he said. Also overhauled is the system that alerts officials when security has been breached. Now, the warden, deputy warden and chief security officer will all be notified automatically. Officials have also raised the level of security at the prison to just below the level of a maximum security prison. That's a move that won't happen overnight, but one much anticipated.

June 5, 2009 AP
A U.S. Marshals Service inspector said two women cut holes through three fences at a private prison in Perry County, enabling a convicted murderer and another prisoner to escape. The fugitives -- 22-year-old Ashton Kenny Chase Mink and 26-year-old Joshua Loyd Southwick -- were being sought Thursday after their escape from the Perry County Corrections Center about 5:30 a.m. on May 25. Rewards totaling $15,000 were being offered. Dick Harbison, the vice president of operations for Lafayette, La.-based LCS Corrections Services, said two shift captains and five guards were fired for not adequately supervising the prisoners. Inspector Ross Herbert with the Gulf Coast Regional Fugitive Task Force said 25-year-old Angela Diana Mink, Ashton Mink's sister, and 25-year-old Jacquelin Rae Kennamer Mink, his wife, are accused of cutting the holes in three perimeter fences.

June 3, 2009 Tuscaloosa News
Two women cut holes in the prison fences at Perry County Corrections Center in Uniontown last week, allowing a convicted murder and another prisoner to escape, a U.S. Marshals Service inspector said. Ashton Mink, 22, and Joshua Loyd Southwick, 26, escaped from the private prison about 5:30 a.m. on May 25. Angela Diana Mink, Mink’s sister, and Jacquelin Rae Kennamer Mink, his wife, allegedly cut holes in the perimeter fence, said Inspector Ross Hebert with the Gulf Coast Regional Fugitive Task Force. The Alabama Department of Corrections has obtained warrants to charge the women, both 25, with aiding the escape of state prisoners. They also have warrants to charge all four with unlawful flight to avoid prosecution, he said. Authorities believe that the four are armed and dangerous. Records indicate that in early May, Jacquelin Mink purchased a .380-caliber gun that was found near the escape scene. She is known to carry a semi-automatic pistol and owns several other handguns and longarms, Hebert said.

June 2, 2009 WAFF
Officers have confirmed a description of the vehicle that two escapees convicted in North Alabama may be driving, and agencies across the state are on the lookout for it. It has been more than a week since 26-year-old Joshua Southwick and 22-year-old Ashton Mink escaped from a private prison in Perry County. "The inmates are still at large and the search continues," said Brian Corbett, a spokesman for the Alabama Department of Corrections. State troopers confirm the two men are believed to be traveling in a pewter 2000 GMC Jimmy, with Madison County tag 47A1F2. Corbett told WAFF 48 News a division of the U.S. Marshals is leading the search. "The U.S. Marshals Gulf Coast Regional Fugitive Task Force, they are the entity that are spearheading the search and investigation into their recapture," he said. Southwick was serving a life sentence after pleading guilty to murder and burglary for the 2003 shooting death of Michael Bryant on Hays Mill Road in Elkmont in Limestone County. Mink was serving time for attempted murder in connection with a 2005 Huntsville home invasion. Investigators said he stabbed Jarold Lee several times in his apartment. "You absolutely have to consider them armed and dangerous," Corbett said. Investigators said someone helped them cut through three fences to make their escape.

May 29, 2009  WAAY TV
New information on two inmates who escaped from an Alabama prison. Joshua Southwick and Ashton Mink broke out of a private prison in Perry County on Monday. Southwick was serving a life sentence after pleading guilty to a 2003 murder-for-hire case in Limestone County. Mink was serving time for an attempted murder in Huntsville four years ago. Police now believe both men are travelling with Mink's sister and another woman. The four may be on their way to Mexico. Police say they are armed and dangerous, and say the prisoners claim that they will not be taken alive.

May 28, 2009 Tuscaloosa News
Authorities believe that two men who escaped from a private prison in Perry County early Monday morning had outside help. Joshua Southwick, 26, and Ashton Mink, 22, escaped the Perry County Detention Center in Uniontown after someone helped them cut through three fences. Southwick is serving a life sentence after pleading guilty in a 2003 murder-for-hire case in Limestone County. Mink, 22, was serving time for an attempted murder conviction in Madison County in 2005. The U.S. Marshals Gulf Coast Task Force, which includes members of several law enforcement agencies and five members of the Department of Corrections, are still looking for the men. Prison Warden Tommy Buford did not answer phone calls from a Tuscaloosa News reporter Tuesday or Wednesday. A prison employee referred calls to Dick Harbison, the vice-president of Lafayette, La.-based LCS Corrections Services, which owns and operates the prison. Harbison did not return a call placed to his cell phone Wednesday afternoon. The 734-bed facility houses prisoners from Alabama and other states in addition to federal prisoners. The state’s Department of Corrections does not have oversight of the company’s management or security practices at the prison because it is a private corporation. The Department of Corrections pays the company $32 a day to house 249 state inmates, less than the $41.71 it costs to house them in a state facility, spokesman Brian Corbett said. He said that the department has not had problems with the Uniontown facility or the company, which housed Alabama inmates in Louisiana because of prison overcrowding between 2003 and 2006. Until last month, the prison also housed around 80 prisoners from Vermont, but the Vermont Department of Corrections removed those inmates after an investigation into prisoner complaints that they had been injured in fights with other inmates, said Seth Lipshutz, the supervising attorney in Vermont’s Prisoners’ Rights Office. The prisoners complained to the Prisoners’ Rights Office, a branch of the state’s Office of the Defender General. Lipshutz said that an investigator with his office conducted an investigation followed by an independent investigation from the state’s Department of Corrections. “They were letting the inmates run the asylum,” he said. The staff and management did not pay adequate attention to security, he said, which resulted in inmate-on-inmate violence and the smuggling of items such as drugs and cell phones into the facility. “Drugs get into a lot of prisons, but cell phones don’t get into many,” Lipshutz said. “It doesn’t take long to figure out why this would be a problem.” He said that inmates complained that an assistant warden boasted that he was drunk while driving the bus from Vermont to Uniontown and behaved unprofessionally when he threatened to shoot them if they tried to escape during a dinner stop at a fast-food restaurant. Lipshutz said that Vermont, one of the country’s smallest and least-populated states, sends around 700 of its 2,200 prisoners to out-of-state facilities because it costs roughly $140 per day to house them in in-state prisons. Prices in Vermont are high for several reasons, he said, including union wages, small prisons and snowy weather that makes transportation between facilities difficult. Many of the state’s prisoners are housed in detention centers owned by Corrections Corp. of America, the first company to open private prisons more than 25 years ago. “I’m not too keen on the privatization of prisons. This is an example of how things go wrong,” Lipshutz said. Ken Kopczynski is the executive director of Private Corrections Institute, a private prison watchdog group based in Tallahassee, Fla. The organization’s mission is to provide information and assistance to citizens, policy makers and journalists about what they consider the dangers of privatizing correctional institutions and service. Kopczynski said no records are kept on the number of escapes from private prisons. The last records kept, he said, were in 2002 and indicated that escape rates are higher at private institutions. The institute compiles media reports of incidents at private facilities on its Web site. According to their information, an inmate who had been on suicide watch died at a LCS facility in Texas in January. At least 15 escapes were reported at some of the company’s prisons in Texas and Louisiana since 2002, according to the institute. The Texas Prison Board conducted a review of the Eastern Hidalgo Detention Center in 2006 after six inmates escaped. The review found that the prison employed too few guards, added an unauthorized number of bunks and kept unlicensed guards and guards without adequate training on payroll, according to a news story from The Monitor, a newspaper in the area. The company president said at the time that those problems were later corrected. The six inmates escaped, company officials said, after someone tampered with a control box for the electrical fence surrounding the prison. Perry County prison guards noticed that Southwick and Mink were not in bed during a 5:20 a.m. bed check. After inspecting the perimeter, they noticed that the fences had been cut.

May 27, 2009 Seven Days
The Vermont Department of Corrections [1] has pulled all of its inmates out of a privately run prison in Alabama after a state investigation confirmed that some of the men had been injured by their fellow inmates. The investigation was launched after the Vermont Prisoners’ Rights Office [2] began receiving reports from clients who claimed inadequate security at Perry County Detention Center led to the inmate-on-inmate violence. The April withdrawal of some 80 Vermont offenders from the 734-bed facility in Uniontown, Alabama, occurred just five months after the state signed its first-ever contract with a new private prison vendor: LCS Corrections Services. Based in Lafayette, Louisiana, the for-profit prison company houses some 6000 inmates in eight facilities throughout the South. Deputy Commissioner of Corrections Lisa Menard said last week that the state had been looking for an alternative prison vendor in an effort to “expand our options” and “ultimately save the taxpayers money.” Vermont was paying LCS $49.50 per day per inmate. Its other out-of-state vendor, Corrections Corporation of America (CCA), charges $67 per day to house Vermont inmates. In-state prisoners cost $140 per day. Vermont currently has about 680 inmates in out-of-state prisons, mostly in two facilities in Kentucky and Tennessee. Both are owned by CCA, the nation’s largest for-profit prison vendor. According to Menard, all the Vermont inmates from the Alabama detention center have since been moved to CCA prisons or returned to Vermont. Asked why the Vermont inmates were withdrawn, Menard initially said, “Vermont has high standards as far as conditions of confinement. Basically, this facility didn’t feel like the best fit for us, without getting into a great deal of detail.” Probed further about the alleged reports of abuse, Menard later confirmed the stories were true. “We did get reports from offenders that there was some assaultive behavior happening,” she confirmed. “When we checked into that, we found that it … was accurate. Unfortunately, this was Vermont inmates committing assaults on other Vermont inmates.” Menard downplayed the severity of the injuries, noting that none was life-threatening and they were “basically bruises, that type of thing.” But that’s not how a lawyer in the prisoners’ rights office in Montpelier characterized the situation in Alabama. Managing Attorney Seth Lipschutz called it “a total disaster.” According to Lipschutz, his office received reports of alleged lax security, contraband being smuggled into the facility, and inadequate bureaucratic procedures being followed for addressing inmates’ grievances. There was even one allegation of a corrections officer being intoxicated while transporting Vermont inmates to the prison. “They were letting the inmates run the asylum,” Lipschutz added. “It was a system where the strong were taking advantage of the weak.” Concerned about their clients’ safety, the prisoners’ rights office notified the Vermont Department of Corrections, which, according to Lipschutz, “acted on it right away and got the inmates out of there as soon as possible.” Lipschutz also characterized the inmates’ injuries as more serious than DOC let on. “There were some people who got beat up,” he claimed. “There were more than cuts and bruises. I think some people had to go to the hospital.” He put the number of inmates involved in such incidents at “maybe two dozen.” But Deputy Commissioner Menard denied that the problems in Perry were the result of poor security. Instead, she blamed the problem on the physical design of the prison itself, which featured a “more open floor plan … that didn’t work well.” Richard Harbison, executive vice president of LCS Corrections Services, echoed that sentiment. “The physical plant in Perry, frankly, was not very conducive to the type of inmates they sent us,” he said. “That prison was designed for low-custody levels and the inmates [Vermont] sent us were of a higher-custody level.” Harbison said he wasn’t aware of any Vermont inmates being hospitalized. “It’s the prison business and these guys are going to get into fights,” he admitted. “But as far as someone being seriously injured, I’m sorry, not to my knowledge.” Whether the injuries at the Alabama prison were due to lax security or a “more open floor plan,” the choice of this particular prison appeared problematic from the get-go. Back in November, when the DOC signed its contract with LCS, then-Corrections Commissioner Robert Hofmann pointed out that the new facility would only be taking Vermont offenders who were “unacceptable to be placed with a majority of other prisoners.” In other words, the more dangerous inmates with behavioral problems. According to Lipschutz, the Perry County Detention Center is used mostly as a holding facility for people arrested on federal immigration violations by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement. Many of those detainees don’t even have a criminal record. Members of the Vermont House of Representatives’ Committee of Corrections were notified of the move only after the inmates had been withdrawn from Alabama, but weren’t told the reason why. “I felt, from our discussions with the commissioner, that it was not a comfortable situation,” said Rep. Linda Myers, vice chair of that committee. Asked if she knew that Vermonters had been beaten up and injured in Alabama, she said she’d heard word of it, “but I can’t say I heard it from the Department of Corrections.” Though Lipschutz credits corrections officials for their prompt response, he sees this episode as symptomatic of the larger systemic problems associated with the for-profit prison industry, which he described as “always a race to the bottom. LCS “came in with a low, low price to take these Vermont inmates,” he added, “which is very attractive to state governments in these tough economic times.”

May 27, 2009 Tuscaloosa News
Law enforcement officials were still searching Tuesday for two prisoners, one of them a convicted murderer, who escaped from a private prison in Perry County early Monday morning. Joshua Southwick, 26, was serving a life sentence after pleading guilty in a 2003 murder-for-hire case in Limestone County. Ashton Mink, 22, was serving time for an attempted murder conviction in Madison County in 2005. He was accused of stabbing Huntsville television and radio reporter Jarold Lee during a personal dispute in 2004, according to media reports at the time. He is not scheduled to be released until 2028. The Alabama Department of Corrections leases bed space from the private Perry County Detention Facility in Uniontown, department spokesman Brian Corbett said. The inmates disappeared some time early Monday. The prison warden did not answer several phone calls Tuesday because he was in meetings related to the inmates' escape. An official at the prison who did not give her name said that guards conducting a bed check at 5:20 a.m. noticed that the inmates were missing. A check of the perimeter revealed that a fence had been cut from the outside, she said.

May 26, 2009 Tuscaloosa News
Authorities are searching for two state prisoners who escaped from a private prison in Perry County Monday. Joshua Southwick, 26, is serving a life sentence after pleading guilty to a 2003 murder-for-hire case in Limestone County. Ashton Mink, 22, was serving time for an attempted murder conviction in Madison County in 2005. He is not scheduled for release until 2028. The Alabama Department of Corrections leases bed space from the private facility in Uniontown. The inmates disappeared some time Monday. Authorities were unavailable Tuesday morning because they were in a meeting to discuss the escapes. More details will be available today.

May 3, 2006 Selma Times Journal
The city of Uniontown welcomed a new business Wednesday, one which is likely to employee more than 100 Perry County residents, but it wasn't the sort of commercial site where officials and dignitaries usually hold ribbon-cutting ceremonies. This ribbon-cutting took place in the shadow of walls, watchtowers and razor-wire, as Black Belt officials celebrated the completion of the Perry County Correctional and Rehabilitation Center. Louisiana-based LCS Corrections, a private prison operator that houses a number of female Alabama inmates at the South Louisiana Correctional Center in Basil, La., will administer the facility. State Sen. Bobby Singleton, who helped attract LCS to Perry County three years ago as a state representative, said the city, county and surrounding area should be proud of the facility. "We're never proud to be incarcerating someone, " Singleton said, "however, I feel we've partnered with good corporate citizen, on that's looking toward rehabilitation and other positive programs in their facility."

Pine Prairie Correctional Center, Pine Prairie, Louisiana
October 27, 2011 The Advocate
Authorities in Oklahoma on Wednesday shot and wounded an escaped inmate suspected in a Tuesday morning bank robbery in Evangeline Parish, officials said during a news conference in Ville Platte. Trooper Stephen Hammons, spokesman for Louisiana State Police, said the U.S. Marshals Service Metro Fugitive Task Force in Oklahoma spotted Brian Keith Soileau at a Walmart store in Norman, Okla., north of Oklahoma City. Soileau fled in a pickup believed to be the same vehicle he used after robbing the Guaranty Bank in Vidrine on Tuesday morning, Hammons said. Soileau led the Metro Fugitive Task Force and Oklahoma Highway Patrol on a 35- to 45-minute pursuit, by vehicle and on foot, that ended with an exchange of gunfire, Hammons said. Soileau was struck and was taken to a hospital where he remains in serious condition, Hammons said. The incident occurred shortly before noon Wednesday, Hammons said. “The chase is over,” said Evangeline Parish Sheriff Eddie Soileau, who said he is not related to the fugitive. “I hope the people of Evangeline Parish feel a little safer today.” Soileau had remained on the loose since Oct. 13, when he escaped from the Pine Prairie Correctional Center, a private facility owned by LCS Corrections Services.

June 29, 2006 The Advocate
A former guard at a private prison in Evangeline Parish was sentenced Wednesday to two years and eight months in prison on federal charges of beating an inmate and then asking other guards to lie about the incident. Gilbert Self, 51, of Florine was convicted at trial in February of one count of a criminal civil rights violation and three counts of witness tampering. Self worked as a captain at Pine Prairie Correctional Center, owned by Lafayette-based private prison company LCS Corrections Services. He was accused of beating a Cuban national being held at the prison on immigration violations after the detainee allegedly made crude remarks to a woman guard in July 2003. The guard reported the incident to Self, her supervisor, who then went into the detainee’s cell and punched and kicked the man while he was restrained and lying face down, according to trial testimony. Three other guards who were present have said they repeatedly asked Self to stop and eventually removed him from the cell and sought medical assistance for the detainee. Self asked the guards to file false reports to cover up the beating, telling them that “if he went down they were also going down,” according to a written statement about the case from the U.S. Attorney’s Office. The three guards initially prepared false reports, prosecutors said, but one of the guards decided the next day to tell a supervisor what had really happened. “This is a serious offense, and no one knows better than you the necessity of promoting respect for the law,” U.S. District Judge Richard Haik told Self before handing down a sentence.

February 22, 2006 Pickens Herald
The Pickens County Commission in a press briefing last Tuesday after their regular meeting questioned the state’s motives in housing several hundred prisoners in Louisiana when they could easily house them at the Pickens County Jail at a cheaper rate. County Attorney Buddy Kirk addressed the Herald with four of the five commissioners present (Commissioners Earnest Summer-ville, William Latham, Willie Colvin and Ted Ezelle were present; Tony Junkin was absent) about the matter after the Commission became aware that the state had moved 140 male prisoners from the Bibb Correctional Facility in Brent, Ala. to a private prison over 300 miles away in Pine Prairie, La. The Commission has contacted the Ala-bama County Commission Association about the matter, said Kirk, to ask for their help in approaching state officials about this curious action. Brian Corbett, a spokesman for the Ala-bama state prison system, told the Associated Press last Monday that the state plans to move 500 inmates from the Bibb County facility to the Pine Prairie Correctional Center in central Louisiana, a private prison operated by LCS Corrections Services Inc. The sticking point for the Pickens County Commission is that not only is the state having to carry the expense of transporting the prisoners to another state but are willing to pay $29.50 a day per inmate to house them there. The state only pays counties $1.75 per day to house state prisoners in county jails. “It doesn’t seem right to the Commission,” said Kirk, who noted that the state will virtually drive right by Pickens County from Bibb County to travel 300 miles to Louisiana. Furthermore, Kirk said if a prisoner has to meet with his attorney, it is a general rule that the state will have to pay that attorney’s expenses if the prisoner is housed far away.

February 13, 2006 AP
A total of 140 medium-security male prisoners were transferred Sunday night from Alabama to a private correctional facility in Louisiana, the first of 500 to be moved in the latest attempt to ease overcrowded cellblocks. The prisoners were transferred from Bibb Correctional Facility in Brent to Pine Prairie Correctional Center in Pine Prairie, La., in an effort to make room for state inmates who are in county jails in violation of an Alabama court order. State prisons spokesman Brian Corbett said Monday the state entered into an emergency contract with LCS Corrections Services Inc. to send up to 500 inmates to the central Louisiana facility. The Department of Corrections currently houses 311 female prisoners at an LCS facility in Basile, La. Prisons Commissioner Donal Campbell announced Friday that he had resigned, effective Feb. 28. He had pushed for increased state funding for prisons and recently said there was no money in Gov. Bob Riley's budget proposal to pay for the use of private prisons, an alternative he supported.

February 10, 2006 The Advocate
A former guard at a private prison in Evangeline Parish has been convicted on federal charges of beating an inmate and then asking other guards to cover up the incident. The jury deliberated about 45 minutes before returning a guilty verdict late Wednesday against Gilbert Self, 51, after a three-day trial. Self was a captain at the Pine Prairie Correctional Center, owned by LCS Corrections Services. He faces up to 10 years in prison on criminal civil rights violations and charges of witness tampering. “The Department of Justice will not tolerate civil rights violations committed by those sworn to uphold the law,” U.S. Attorney Donald Washington said in a statement. “… It was Mr. Self’s responsibility to control such violent outbreaks in the facility, not to initiate the violence.” Self was accused of beating a Cuban national who was being detained for immigration violations. Prosecutors said the July 2003 incident began when the detainee allegedly made crude remarks to a female guard. She reported the remarks to Self, who went into the detainee’s cell, punched him repeatedly, slammed his head into the floor and kicked the man inthe ribs, according to guards who witnesses the incident. The guards, who said they attempted to stop Self, told investigators that he later asked them to file false reports to cover up the beating. The guards prepared false reports on the incident, but the next day, one of the men told Self’s supervisor what had actually happened. The detainee, who lost consciousness during the attack, suffered bruising and swelling to both eyes, cuts, and rib injuries, prosecutors said. The injuries were not properly documented at the time because Self asked a nurse to alter her medical report, according to prosecutors, and LCS later fired the nurse for not following proper procedures and sending the detainee to the hospital for treatment.

A federal grand jury has joined local prosecutors and civil rights attorneys in bringing charges against employees at private, for-profit prisons in Evangeline Parish. In the most recent charges, Gilbert Self, 49, of Florien, a former captain at the Pine Prairie Detention Center, has been indicted on one count of felony criminal civil rights violation and three counts of obstruction of justice for allegedly beating a prisoner. U.S. Attorney Donald W. Washington said Self was arraigned Wednesday morning in Lafayette and released on a $75,000 bond. A tentative trial date is set for July 12 on the four charges, which each carry a maximum penalty of 10 years in prison and a $25,000 fine. Washington said sentencing in federal court is governed by the U.S. sentencing guidelines, which do not allow for parole. He said the federal charges stem from a government contract with LCS Corrections Services Inc., a Lafayette-based company, which owns the private prison near Pine Prairie and another near Basile. The current indictment alleges that in July 2003, Self assaulted and caused bodily harm to a Cuban national, who was being detained at the facility under the authority of the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement Service. The indictment also alleges that Self obstructed the investigation by trying to persuade three fellow guards to lie to federal law enforcement officials.  LCS owns two private prisons in Evangeline Parish. Both are currently facing ongoing lawsuits. Last month, Evangeline Parish District Attorney Brent Coreil opened an investigation of the South Louisiana Correctional Center near Basile in regard to repeated charges of sexual assaults on female prisoners.  (Louisiana Gannett, May 6, 2004)

A guard at a private prison in Evangeline Parish has been booked on charges of having sex with an inmate. Todd Daniel Arnold, 22, of Oberlin faces one count of malfeasance in office for allegedly having sex with a female inmate at Pine Prairie Correctional Center, a prison run by Lafayette-based Louisiana Corrections Services. Arnold was booked into the Evangeline Parish Jail on Monday and released on $7,500 bond, according to jail records. The incident comes about two years after the former warden of the Evangeline Parish Jail was convicted on two counts of malfeasance in office for extorting sexual favors from the family members of inmates. Michael J. Savant, 48, was sentenced to six months in jail and three years probation on the charges. (Daily Advertiser, July 7, 2003)

Richwood Correctional Center, Louisiana
Sep 6, 2019 knoe.com

Former Richwood guard gets almost 4 years in pepper spraying

(AP) - A former guard at a private prison in Louisiana has been sentenced to nearly four years in prison for standing by while others used pepper spray on kneeling, handcuffed inmates, then participating in a cover-up. U.S. Attorney's Office spokeswoman Mona Hardwick says U.S. District Judge Terry Doughty sentenced Christopher Loring on Wednesday in Monroe to 46 months in prison. Loring was the last of four ex-guards to be sentenced after pleading guilty in the October 2016 incident at Richwood Correctional Center near Monroe. Charges were dropped against a fifth after he died. The longest sentence was five years for former Capt. Roderick Douglas, the first guard to use the spray. The prison, warden and ex-guards still face a lawsuit filed by the inmates about five months before the indictment.

Nov 30, 2018 njherald.com
Private prison ex-sergeant guilty in chemical spray cover-up
A former sergeant at a privately-run Louisiana prison has pleaded guilty to covering up an incident in which he and other guards used a chemical spray on five kneeling, handcuffed inmates. Thirty-three-year-old Demario Shaffer was among five Richwood Correctional Center officers and guards indicted in March. Trial is scheduled April 15 for the others. The U.S. Attorney's Office said in a news release Wednesday that Shaffer pleaded guilty Monday in court in Monroe to one count of conspiring to falsify documents to obstruct and influence a matter within federal jurisdiction. District Judge Terry Doughty scheduled sentencing May 1. Shaffer could get up to five years in prison and a $250,000 fine. Richwood Correctional Center is a medium-security prison run by LaSalle Corrections in the Ouachita (WASH-uh-tah) Parish town of Richwood.

Aug 6, 2018 hannapub.com
Inmate accused of beating another with padlock in sock
Ouachita Parish sheriff's deputies arrested a Marrero man incarcerated at Richwood Correctional Center for beating another inmate with a padlock in a sock on Saturday. Deputies were dispatched to RCC, which is a private prison, because of a fight that broke out there. Rockeen Jacks, 21, of 915 Demarco Drive, Marrero, was involved in a fight at the prison and produced a sock with a padlock inserted inside it and began hitting another inmate, according to the July 28 arrest report. During the fight, Jacks produced a makeshift knife and struck the other offender on the head and face. He was booked at Ouachita Correctional Center.

Apr 20, 2018 wwl.com
Louisiana prison guards indicted in alleged inmate assaults
MONROE, La. (AP) -- Five former corrections officers at a Louisiana prison have been indicted on charges they conspired to assault handcuffed inmates and submitted false reports on the incident. The former officers at the Richwood Correctional Center in Ouachita (WASH'-ih-tah) Parish were charged in a seven-count federal indictment that was unsealed Thursday. The U.S. Justice Department said the defendants made their initial court appearances Thursday. They are Roderick Douglas, 37, of Monroe; Christopher Loring, 35, of Monroe; Demario Shaffer, 33, of Delhi, Louisiana; Quintail Credit, 26, of Winnsboro, Louisiana; and David Parker, 27, of Tallulah, Louisiana. The March 29 indictment says Loring "stood by" and didn't intervene when the other guards sprayed a chemical agent into the faces of five handcuffed inmates, who were kneeling on the floor in an area of the prison without surveillance cameras. The inmates didn't pose any threat to the officers during the 2016 incident, the indictment adds. The officers tried to cover up the assault on the inmates by filing false reports on the incident to explain why the inmates needed medical treatment, the indictment says. Three of the officers are charged with lying to FBI agents about the incident in July 2017. Loring and Shaffer falsely claimed that one of the inmates had "pulled away" from Douglas before the officer sprayed him, the indictment alleges.Attorneys representing Credit, Shaffer and Douglas didn't immediately respond Thursday evening to emails seeking comment on the charges. It wasn't immediately clear if Loring or Parker have attorneys.Richwood Correctional Center is a private prison operated by LaSalle Corrections. Louisiana's corrections department regularly inspects the facility but doesn't employ the officers who work there, according to department spokesman Ken Pastorick. "The department does not condone this type of activity," Pastorick said.

South Louisiana Correctional Center, Basile, Louisiana
August 1, 2009 New America Media
Some one hundred immigrant detainees at a private prison in Louisiana, angered by what they say are awful conditions, are engaged in increasingly tense protests. Beginning in early July, they’ve staged waves of hunger strikes and provided immigrant advocates with testimonies to gain attention for their complaints. Prison authorities, meanwhile, have been reacting by placing hunger strikers in isolation for days at a time. Immigrations and Customs Enforcement (ICE), the federal agency in charge of immigrant detention, has said the solitary confinement isn’t disciplinary, but precautionary “medical isolation.” At least six inmates remain in solitary confinement as a result of the last hunger strike, which began July 27, according to Saket Soni, of the New Orleans Worker’s Center for Racial Justice. He spoke to New America Media via cellphone Saturday afternoon. He was on his way to visit the prison, the Southern Louisiana Correctional Center, a 1,000-bed facility set near rice fields in the town of Basile, a four-hour drive west of New Orleans. The detainees “are facing a severe sense of isolation and desperation,” he says. In a report compiled by Soni and other advocates and published on the center’s website July 30, some 100 detainees acting as “human rights monitors” complain of lack of responsible medical attention, even for serious ailments like leukemia, high blood pressure, and asthma. They also report unreliable, and in some cases nonexistent, phone contact with lawyers and family, a vacuum of information about their deportation cases, and scarcity of soap, toothpaste, toilet paper, and even underwear. One detainee reports “rats, mosquitoes, flies, and spiders inside the cell,” one of several shared by scores of detainees. A Jewish detainee says he was denied a kosher diet, while another said the detention center’s food routinely made him sick. These testimonies would put the facility in violation of several standards issued by the Department of Homeland Security for immigrant detainees, according to Soni. But federal officials responsible for the detainees flatly deny they have been subjected to any mistreatment. Philip Miller, acting field office director in New Orleans for Immigration and Customs Enforcement or ICE, says he visited the Basile facility on July 16 and found its maintenance and pest control program satisfactory. In the July 30 report, one detainee claims there was no soap and toothpaste for three weeks in May, but Miller denies that: “That’s not true,” since inmates receive toiletries upon request. To date, there have been five hunger strikes to protest conditions at the Basile detention center, and they’ve involved some 60 detainees, says Soni. Prison staff reportedly sought to quell these protests by isolating hunger strikers, sometimes even before they began refusing food, according to testimonials from men who participated in earlier hunger strikes. In the report, Joaquin López says that on the morning of July 23 he and four other immigrant detainees in a cell called Wolf 3 were put into the “hole” for planning a hunger strike. The next day, López said, they were brought out of the “hole,” cuffed at the ankles and wrists, and interrogated for two hours, then placed in solitary confinement again, in cells measuring twelve by six feet. He was brought out of the isolation cell to speak with advocates on July 25. Another detainee, Fausto Gonzalez, who has asthma, said that on July 28, over 30 people in his cell, Tiger 2, refused food and voiced their complaints. Guards showed up in black riot uniforms, said Gonzalez, and two men were sent to the “hole.” Soni says he doesn’t know how long the men mentioned in the report remained in solitary, since the limited contact doesn’t allow him to track them. “Solitary confinement as retaliatory punishment for peaceful protest of conditions is unacceptable,” said the New York-based Center for Constitutional Rights in a statement. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, the federal agency which oversees immigrant detention, denies any hunger strikers would be punished with solitary confinement, or unduly pressured. Federal detention standards require that a hunger striker be placed in “medical isolation in order to closely monitor the detainee and meet his medical needs,” says Miller, the ICE field officer for detention and removal. Also, says Miller, hunger strikers undergo a medical review and counseling about the health risks they face. Seven national advocacy groups, including the Center for Constitutional Rights, sent Department of Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano a letter demanding she investigate the Basile, Louisiana prison and the detainees’ grievances. Last month, Napolitano denied a court petition asking for bolstered, legally enforceable detention standards at facilities housing immigrant detainees. Instead, DHS opted to stick with “performance-based” standards enforced by private contractors.

July 30, 2009 AP
A group of detainees at a Louisiana immigration detention center have begun three-day hunger strikes to protest poor conditions there, immigrant advocates said. The news comes just days after Department of Homeland Security officials dismissed a report critical of conditions at its immigration holding centers nationwide. About 100 detainees contributed to a report released Thursday by the New Orleans Workers' Center for Racial Justice, claiming bleak conditions at a U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement lockup in Basile, La., 183 miles northwest of New Orleans. "It's not fit for a human being," read a comment attributed to Fausto Gonzalez, according to the report a detainee from the Dominican Republic. "There are rats, mosquitoes, flies, and spiders inside the cell and inside the dorm. The ventilation is terrible," he said. "We have tried to complain about all of these problems, and we haven't gotten anywhere. They tell us, 'It's a jail. This is how it is.'" Dora Schriro, special adviser on detention and removal for Homeland Security, which oversees ICE, did not return requests for comment Thursday. Philip Miller, ICE's acting field office director in New Orleans, who oversees five southern states, said the facility was cleaned daily and that he had talked with staff about addressing detainee concerns. "We acknowledge and accept the fact that immigration detention is not punitive in nature," he said. "And we have to take a high degree of caution and a high degree of sensitivity in how we maintain our facility." The Associated Press has requested access to the 1,002-bed complex which is run through private contracts with several law enforcement bodies, including ICE. Dick Harbison, executive vice president of contractor LCS Corrections Services Inc., has agreed to the tour and ICE officials are considering it. Access to immigration detainees is generally limited to family and legal representatives, which staff attorneys at the New Orleans group have become for those quoted in its report. Detainees at Basil are being held on federal charges of staying in the country without authorization, but in some cases local charges as well. Gonzalez is among 60 detainees who have undertaken rotating 72-hour hunger strikes over the last month to protest conditions, said Saket Soni, executive director of the Workers' Center. They would strike for longer periods, Soni said, but the detainees feared inadequate medical care and placement of strikers in solitary confinement could lead to serious illnesses. The conditions outlined in the report are similar to those highlighted in the report released Tuesday by the National Immigration Law Center. Homeland Security officials dismissed that report as being outdated because it used data and detainee accounts no fresher than 2005. The grievances in the latest report are no older than two weeks. Among the report's claims: - A detainee said guards humiliated him and other men by issuing them women's nylon underwear. - A Jewish man said when he requested Kosher food, guards said they didn't know what it was and he was given unsealed food that made him throw up. - One detainee said he has not had phone contact with his family or lawyer for a month because phone cards that they are required to buy take a week to be issued and then do not work in most holding cells. - For about three weeks in May, the jail ran out of soap and toothpaste, said a detainee. - A hunger striker said air conditioning was turned down in his room after he began his protest and he was eventually placed in solitary confinement and pressured to eat. "Ninety-five percent of it's untrue," said Harbison. "Occasionally, an inmate tells you a lie." Harbison said records showed only two inmates had failed to report to the mess hall during the period in which the hunger strikes were to have taken place. Striking detainees reported to the mess so they would not face retaliation, said Soni, but left their trays full.

July 27, 2006 AP
About 320 female Alabama prisoners being housed in Louisiana are being moved to another prison in that state but one closer to Alabama. The women inmates had been housed at a private prison at Basile in southwest Louisiana. They are being moved to J.B. Evans Correctional Center in Newellton, La., which is on the Louisiana-Mississippi line about 60 miles west of Jackson. The move brings the inmates about two and a-half hours closer to the Julia Tutwiler Prison for Women in Wetumpka, prisons commissioner Richard Allen said Thursday. It also reduces travel time for corrections officers. The Alabama Department of Corrections has a contract with LCS Correctional Services to house the inmates to help reduce overcrowded conditions at Tutwiler. The J.B. Evans Correctional Center opened in 1994 and is a medium security facility with the capacity of holding 440 inmates. Allen said it will be used exclusively for the Alabama women prisoners. More than 600 male inmates are also housed in private facilities in Louisiana because of overcrowded conditions in Alabama prisons.

January 25, 2006 Birmingham News
When the Alabama Department of Corrections decided to put prisoners in a private out-of-state prison, women went first. The state opened a transition center for people on parole, and it was for women. A close look at these experiments, however, shows that, for the overall prison population to drop by much, the state may need to turn to alternatives such as expanded drug courts and community-based treatment and sentencing reform. A bill endorsed by Gov. Bob Riley takes a step in that direction by stressing changes in Alabama's sentencing structure. In reaction to a federal court settlement that forced the state to cut the population at Tutwiler Prison for Women to 950, the state Parole Board released several hundred low-level offenders and the state began housing pockets of women in other facilities - the Louisiana private prison, the LifeTech parole transition center and county jails. But Alabama now incarcerates 1,920 women, only a 4 percent drop in three years. And instead of steering female drug offenders into community programs - as numerous government task forces have recommended - the state is locking up more women for drug crimes than ever before. "The path that Alabama has taken over the last four years of renting more bed space for women has proven to be the wrong path," said Lisa Kung, director of the Southern Center for Human Rights, a nonprofit law firm that has won settlements over conditions at prisons. In Birmingham, only 40 of 100 spaces are filled in "Second Chance" a federally funded program that allows newly released women to live in apartments and work regular jobs while receiving drug treatment, medical and mental health services. Not enough women are being paroled to fill the slots. Kung agreed that LifeTech is a better option than prison. But she wants the state to use the center for incarcerated women, not probationers. Nearly 40 percent of the women at the private prison in Louisiana will be eligible for parole over the next three years, according to DOC records. Many have served terms of 15 years or more for crimes Kung said often involved abusive partners. She's hoping parole officials will consider letting some of these women into LifeTech, and she has been working with lawmakers on gender-specific parole guidelines that might help cut the numbers of low-risk women locked in private prisons. LCS Corrections houses 320 Alabama women at its Louisiana prison, with a price tag climbing toward $10 million since the contract began in 2003. A prison run by the same company is set to open in Perry County and may end up housing Alabama men. Kung's problem with shipping so many women to Louisiana is that they are housed 900 miles from their children and families and have no opportunities to take the classes that the parole board looks to as signs prisoners are trying to improve themselves. "The inmates housed here have too much idle time on their hands and that defeats the purpose of rehabilitation," inmate Sharron Kay Jones, 47, serving 15 years for solicitation to commit murder, wrote in a letter from Louisiana "There is no rehabilitation here at all." Inmate Paula Settle, 34, of Tuscaloosa, serving 15 years for drug trafficking, signed up for anger management, substance abuse, parenting and trade school classes at Tutwiler. But she was immediately transferred to Louisiana. "There are no classes, programs, meetings, jobs or counselors here. No trades, no furthering education, no chaplain or religious assemblies or functions," she said.

August 16, 2005 The Advocate
A private prison company has settled a federal lawsuit filed by the family of an inmate who died in custody after he was allegedly beaten and denied adequate medical care. Gregory Lee, 35, died June 22, 2003, less than a week after he was transferred from LCS South Louisiana Detention Center in Basile to the state-run Elayn Hunt Correctional Center in St. Gabriel for medical treatment. LCS Vice-President Dick Harbison confirmed Monday that a settlement had been reached but declined to discuss the terms. Willie Nunnery, the attorney representing Lee' family in the lawsuit, also declined to offer any specifics on the settlement. "It is a strictly, strictly confidential matter," he said. The settlement of the lawsuit against Lafayette-based LCS comes after prosecutors filed charges last year against guards at the company's two south Louisiana facilities. Gilbert Self, 50, a former captain at LCS's Pine Prairie Correctional Center, was indicted by a federal grand jury in May 2004, accused of hitting an inmate and then trying to persuade three fellow corrections officers not to cooperate in an investigation of the incident. Self, who faces one count of violating civil rights and three counts of witness tampering, is set for trial in September. An Evangeline Parish grand jury in June 2004 indicted four guards at the company's Basile facility on charges of malfeasance in office for allegedly having inappropriate sexual contact with inmates. LCS officials have said that all of the guards facing criminal charges at the two facilities were terminated after internal investigations.

April 6, 2005 Montgomery Advertiser
From the day the Department of Corrections began talking about sending some inmates to private, out-of-state prisons, the Advertiser expressed serious reservations about the idea, and for several reasons. Nothing that has happened since has changed our view of the practice. Questions raised by female inmates sent to a privately operated prison in Louisiana have prompted a new concern -- whether incarceration there hurts their chances for parole. The private prison in Basile, La., nearly 500 miles from DOC headquarters in Montgomery, now houses about 270 Alabama inmates. Severe overcrowding at Tutwiler Prison in Wetumpka, Alabama's only penitentiary for women, led the department to send some inmates there to bring the Tutwiler population down to a more manageable level. The state's short-term options were limited, so using the private prison as a stopgap measure was understandable. But private prisons have a lot of inherent qualities that should concern Alabamians. They are for-profit enterprises, of course, so there are financial pressures that could lead to potentially dangerous cutting of corners. In many cases, they are little more than warehouses for inmates, with few opportunities for work or training. That could be a detrimental factor in parole considerations. As a group of inmates notes in a call for reform, this prison that sits surrounded by Louisiana rice fields offers no classes, no training programs, no rehabilitation groups or any of the things that inmates can point to when they come up for parole consideration. "Down here, the time is not constructive," said Phyllis Richey, an inmate from Muscle Shoals. "We have nothing to do. We're basically housed. That's it." For inmates who are well behaved and are trying to serve their time responsibly and get out of prison, this is clearly frustrating. Rather than having an incentive to improve themselves in preparation for life outside prison, inmates are stuck in a prison far away from their homes and families in Alabama, simply marking time. That's bad enough. The prospect that their parole consideration is affected only makes matters worse. Private prisons are a bad concept. The sooner Alabama can get its inmates out of them, the better.

April 1, 2005 Birmingham News
Alabama female prisoners locked in a rural Louisiana prison are demanding changes they say could give them a fairer shot at parole and curb the state's reliance on private, forprofit lockups. Women at the South Louisiana Correctional Center, some of whom have been housed 500 miles from their families for two years, wrote a Platform for Fair Reform. The two-page document includes reasons for their
concerns and five demands they think would improve their chances for getting parole and leading productive lives. The women have asked for: Objective parole criteria, workrelease opportunities, an end to the parole board's backlog, an end to the ''heinous crime'' designation that prevents some of them from working outside the prison and a chance to face their victims as well as the parole board. The move to the Louisiana prison, 475 miles from Montgomery, makes it difficult or impossible for families to visit, the inmates said. Surrounded by rice fields, the prison has no classes, programs or rehabilitation groups, the opportunities prisoners rely on to show the parole board they have worked to better themselves.

January 21, 2005 The Advocate
The family of an inmate who died in prison held a news conference Thursday to release the details of his death. The family members of Gregory Lee, 35, of Kenner, convicted in 2003 of distribution of cocaine near a church, say he died because he didn't receive proper medical care at the South Louisiana Correctional Center, a private prison in Basile. The family has filed suit in federal court against LCS Corrections Services Inc. and Patrick LeBlanc of Lafayette, Gary Copes, former Lafayette police chief and warden of the facility, and several facility employees. The suit was filed in 2003 and is pending before U.S. District Judge Tucker L. Melançon. Willie Nunnery, the family's attorney, provided the media with a report from an expert his clients have hired. "This case has taken on a new twist," Nunnery said. "It is the intent of his family that the public know what happened to Gregory Lee." According to his death certificate, Lee died June 22, 2003. The medical transfer document from the SLCC indicates he left there June 17, 2003. The autopsy report, prepared by the Orleans Parish Coroner's Office, indicates that Lee died of complications from AIDS. However, a forensic pathologist hired by Lee's family has examined microscope slides -- which the Orleans officials did not do -- and determined that Lee probably died from sepsis, a severe infection. Dr. Robert Huntington III, an associate professor in the Department of Pathology and Laboratory Medicine at the University of Wisconsin, participated in the news conference via speakerphone. Huntington said sepsis can be the result of infected wounds that aren't treated, and it also can start with pneumonia, bladder infections or heart infections, he said. Nunnery said he also has taken the deposition of two inmates who were being held in Basile at the time Lee was there. Those depositions indicate that the inmates testified Lee was being beaten and sprayed with tear gas. Nunnery said Lee was "hogtied" and beaten, shackled and left in chains for hours. "There can be no justice until the courts deal with the privatization of prisons in this state," Nunnery said. "There should be a massive inquiry into what happened to Gregory Lee. This individual was beaten, and the system sought to hide and cover this up."

October 21, 2004 Montgomery Advertiser
Although it is important to acknowledge that the filing of a lawsuit proves nothing in and of itself, the suit filed by an Alabama inmate housed in an out-of-state private prison raises anew some valid concerns about such facilities. The Advertiser has long had reservations about private prisons and nothing in Alabama's recent experience has alleviated them in the slightest.
In April of last year, Alabama began sending female inmates to a private prison in Basile, La., to relieve overcrowding at Tutwiler Prison for Women in Wetumpka, Alabama's only prison for females. Private prisons are, of course, intended to be money-making ventures, and that creates the potential for some serious problems. Even the most fervent believers in free enterprise -- count the Advertiser among them -- surely can see that the profit motive and the function of prisons are ripe for conflict.  When a state deprives a citizen of liberty for having violated its laws, it also assumes the custody of that individual. That is a solemn responsibility. When an individual is incarcerated for the protection of society, the state is not absolved of the obligation to carry out that incarceration in a constitutional manner.  With a private prison, the pursuit of profit invariably creates the temptation to cut corners, to skimp on safety, personnel, medical attention, nutrition and other facets of the operation. It's simply a bad mix of private-sector motives and public-sector responsibilities. The merits of this particular suit will be determined in court, but the inherent problems with private prisons are something Alabama has to face. They are not an acceptable solution to Alabama's prison problems in the long term, and even their short-term use is questionable.

October 19, 2004 Daily Comet
An Alabama inmate is suing the state Department of Corrections and a private prison company in Louisiana, claiming she was raped after being shipped out of state due to a lack of space.
The lawsuit, filed Oct. 1 in Louisiana federal court, claims that guards at the South Louisiana Correctional Center sexually assaulted at least two prisoners, including raping the woman who filed the suit, and that the guards had sex with one another and played cards and drank beer during the night shift. The four guards named in the lawsuit have been fired. Also, an Evangeline Parish grand jury indicted them on charges of malfeasance in office for sexual conduct prohibited for people confined in a correctional institution. All four pleaded not guilty, The Birmingham News reported Tuesday. The lawsuit claims that Alabama prison Commissioner Donal Campbell failed to properly investigate LCS before shipping Alabama women there and failed to implement proper policies and procedures for the oversight of the contract. The inmate who filed the suit claims she got no medical treatment after the assault.

Soon after arriving at the South Louisiana Correctional Center near Basile in 2003 inmate Gregory Lee died. Attorney Willie J. Nunnery, who is representing Lee's mother, Mae Thompson Lee, is charging that the private, for-profit prison abused and tortured him. Nunnery is seeking access to prisoners who allegedly witnessed what happened to Lee and a reexamination of the forensic evidence. When the charges where first filed, prison guards said Lee jumped off the top bunk of his cell, hitting his head on the toilet. Nunnery, a civil rights attorney, has a darker theory. He claims that following an altercation after the evening meal, prison guards attempted to punish Lee by beating him. Following the incident, Lee, badly injured from whatever cause, was transferred to Elayn Hunt Correctional Center , a state facility, where he died several days later. Nunnery said he is in possession of photographs taken when Lee arrived at Elayn Hunt. "They were very barbaric pictures," Nunnery said. "If you saw those pictures it would make your stomach turn." The Basile facility and another LCS private prison at Pine Prairie have repeatedly made headlines recently with both female employees and inmates bringing charges of sexual harassment against the company. "I don't understand why there isn't any public outcry to have that place shut down," Nunnery said. (Daily World, August 15, 2004)

Four guards who worked at the Basile Detention Center in Evangeline Parish were indicted Friday for allegedly having sexual contact with female inmates.  An Evangeline Parish grand jury indicted the four guards on charges of malfeasance in office for sexual conduct prohibited for persons confined in a correctional institution.  Kenneth Stenson Sr., Horace Edwards, Frank Lenoir and Jeffery Collins will be arraigned July 1 and will face up to 10 years in jail and a $10,000 fine.The indictments follow four days of testimony from investigators, prison guards and 22 inmates at the south Louisiana correctional center.  (AP, June 11, 2004)

Allegations of sexual contact between security officers and female inmates from Alabama at a private prison in Basile are scheduled to be studied this week by a grand jury.  Two prison employees were fired after an internal investigation into the allegations made by female inmates who were being held at the South Louisiana Correctional Center.  (AP, June 7, 2004)

A grand jury is set to meet in June to decide whether criminal charges should be pursued against guards at a private prison in Basile accused of having sexual contact with inmates. The allegations, which arose last year, involve a group of female inmates from Alabama that were being held at the South Louisiana Correctional Center, owned by Lafayette-based LCS Corrections Services. LCS Vice President Richard Harbison said two employees at the Basile prison were fired after an internal investigation of the allegations. The grand jury investigation into the allegations at Basile comes after a former captain at LCS's Pine Prairie facility was indicted earlier this year for allegedly hitting an inmate and then trying to persuade three fellow corrections officers not to cooperate in an investigation of the incident. (Advertiser, May 21, 2004)

A Louisiana district attorney says he will pursue criminal charges against guards at a private prison over sexual contact with inmates from Alabama, The Birmingham News reported.  About 200 female prisoners from Alabama are being housed at the South Louisiana Correctional Center, where they were transferred last year to help relieve overcrowding at Tutwiler Prison for Women.  The criminal case, involving an incident late last year, is the result of an investigation begun by the Alabama Department of Corrections.  "There is definite misconduct that did occur, and we will follow through with it," Evangeline Parish District Attorney Brent Coreil said Tuesday. He said he has not decided whether to file direct charges or present a case to a grand jury.  The Basile, La., lockup is owned and operated by LCS Corrections, based in Lafayette, La. Alabama pays the company about $23 per inmate per day to house the women.  "ADOC's investigation produced a confession from an employee at South Louisiana Correctional Center, along with subsequent termination of that employee. We then turned our investigative report over to the local district attorney for prosecution," Alabama prisons spokesman Brian Corbett said.  (AP, April 7, 2004)

Investigators are looking into allegations of illegal sexual contact between a female prisoner and a guard at the Louisiana private prison housing prisoners from Alabama. This is the second such investigation involving an Alabama inmate and an employee or employees of Southeastern Louisiana Correctional Center, said Richard Harbison, general manager of LCS Corrections Services. The Lafayette, La., company runs the prison housing about 275 Alabama women. "We do have the district attorney involved in it," Harbison said Thursday. "Which means we're taking it very seriously." (Al.com, February 13, 2004)

The mother of former South Louisiana Correctional Center inmate Gregory Lee has filed a lawsuit alleging that Lee was beaten and tortured before being transferred to Elayn Hunt Correctional Center in St. Gabriel, where he died. The lawsuit was filed Aug. 15 in U.S. District Court in Lafayette against Warden Gary Copes, state Corrections Secretary Richard Stalder and unnamed prison guards. Lee was incarcerated May 6 at the Basile facility to begin serving an eight-year sentence for distribution of drugs, said Willie J. Nunnery, an attorney for Lee's mother, Mae Thompson Lee. Sometime before June 17, "we believe he was severely beaten and brutalized before he left Basile," (The Advocate, September 25, 2003)

Lawyer Bruce Rozas, who was handling four sexual harassment cases against LCS Corrections Services Inc., which operates private, for-profit prisons in Basile and Pine Prairie, is now handling seven. "Following the media coverage, I had three more women come to see me today," Rozas said Friday from his office in Mamou. He said the newest complaints date back to 1998, all involving the same two officers named in his earlier Equal Employment Opportunity Commission complaints on behalf of Maggie Dupre, a nurse at South Louisiana Correctional Center near Basile, and Sandra Whittington, a nurse at Pine Prairie Correctional Center. Dupre was fired this week after coming forward with her complaints. According to Rozas, the new complaints show the same pattern. He said two of his new clients, Carla T. Zeno and Laurie Ardoin, both claim they were also fired after making complaints about unwanted sexual advances by superior officers. (Daily World, September 15, 2003)

The private Louisiana prison where Alabama sent female inmates Monday was the scene of a riot, escapes and other problems that led Idaho to remove its inmates five years ago. The problems occurred at South Louisiana Correctional Center in Basile, La., which is operated by LCS Corrections Services Inc. Alabama sent 70 female inmates to the prison on Monday and plans to send more, Department of Corrections Commissioner Donal Campbell said Tuesday. Teresa Jones, public information officer for the Idaho Department of Corrections, said Idaho transferred 300 inmates to the LCS prison in the summer of 1997. In September 1997, five inmates escaped by cutting a hole in a fence. Most were recaptured, but one remains at large eight years later, Jones said. Idaho hired a monitor, who conducted an audit of the prison. In an Oct. 2, 1997, report, he found the prison generally complied with the terms of its contract with Idaho, but also cited problems. Among them: A riot had occurred in July 1997; the warden was at the prison only two days a week; some cells had the windows painted over with no natural light; and staff training was inadequate. Jones said Idaho removed all of its inmates by January 1998 and has not used LCS facilities since. (The Montgomery Advertiser, April 16, 2003)

Authorities are saying the inmate who escaped from the Basile Correctional Facility on Sunday night is considered armed and dangerous. Gerald Matte of Eunice escaped from the private prison Sunday night by overpowering a prison guard and later stole a truck, which he abandoned near Mamou Monday morning. An all-day search by more than 30 law enforcement officials in the wooded area near where the truck was found turned up nothing. (The Baton Rouge Advocate, June 29, 2001)