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Avalon Correctional Center, Tulsa, Oklahoma
Feb 15, 2014 tulsaworld.com

OKLAHOMA CITY — The Oklahoma Department of Corrections won’t consider returning inmates to Avalon Correctional Services’ Tulsa halfway house until significant changes are made to its operations, officials said Thursday. Interim director Ed Evans told the Board of Corrections that the agency issued several pages of requirements that the private company must address before getting a new contract to repopulate its Avalon Tulsa halfway house. The mandates include upgrading security cameras, increasing drug testing of offenders and strengthening methods of finding and tracking contraband at the facility. The agency would have an on-site monitor for at least six months and be able to review prospective administrators and other hires for the facility. Avalon would be required to pick up the tab for all of these changes. Company officials said they have already completed upgrades on the building at 302 W. Archer St. to improve security and safety and are working quickly to make all changes required by DOC. “We’re actually great with everything that they recommended,” said Brian Costello, president and chief operating officer. “A lot of stuff we’ve already complied with. I think we should be relatively close to meeting those requirements.” In January, department officials closed Avalon Tulsa and canceled its contract, transferring more than 200 inmates due to “serious infractions” affecting offender safety. The investigation began after inmate fights were captured on cellphone videos from inside the facility. The fights at Avalon Tulsa are among allegations of inmates’ civil rights violations that the Department of Corrections and FBI are now investigating. Oklahoma City-based Avalon operates halfway houses in Oklahoma, Texas and Wyoming for inmates nearing the end of their sentences as they prepare to reintegrate into society. Its Turley halfway house for women and Carver facilities in Oklahoma City remain open under their current DOC contracts. Whether Avalon Tulsa is ultimately reopened will be up to DOC and its new director, Robert Patton, who is expected to begin his duties next week. The department has full authority over its contracts with halfway house providers and does not need approval of the Board of Corrections to cancel or approve those contracts, officials said. Board member Steve Burrage said he simply wanted to make sure the department was “acting in fairness” toward Avalon. “This is a contract we’ve had for 29 years,” he said. Burrage said Avalon had a “very clean” record. Department officials previously told state legislators the agency has evidence that administrators at Avalon Tulsa knew about the inmates fighting for sport and gambling purposes and allowed it to continue. Attorneys representing several of the Avalon Tulsa inmates have alleged that administrators not only knew, but participated by selecting inmates and setting up the fights. Also at Thursday’s Board of Corrections meeting, General Counsel Mike Oakley informed the board that despite allegations by some state legislators that DOC is not following the law with regard to placing inmates in halfway houses, there is actually no statutory requirement to place inmates in those facilities. Halfway houses are simply one option DOC has for community corrections placement of inmates as they complete their sentences, Oakley said. Protecting public safety and following strict policies on which inmates can be placed in halfway houses and work release programs are the most important factors, he said. “They’re frying your burgers and serving your fast food,” Oakley told the board. “We want to make sure these offenders are fit to go into your community.”

Feb 1, 2014 oklahomawatch.org

Federal investigators are looking into allegations against a Tulsa halfway house that resulted in the Oklahoma Department of Corrections pulling its inmates from the facility, Oklahoma Watch has learned. Edward Evans, acting director of the Corrections Department, told legislators at a House public-safety subcommittee meeting Tuesday that the federal government was investigating issues at the Avalon Correctional Services facility in Tulsa. Corrections Department spokesman Jerry Massie confirmed to Oklahoma WatchThursday that the department had turned over evidence to federal investigators and department officials have had conversations with the U.S. Attorney’s Office and the FBI about the matter. An FBI spokesman said per the bureau’s policy, he could not confirm or deny the existence of an investigation. The Department of Corrections has three active investigations into Avalon’s Tulsa halfway house, according to a Jan. 14 letter from the department’s deputy director Reginald Hines to Brian Costello, president and chief operating officer of Oklahoma City-based Avalon. Preliminary evidence showed “serious infractions” involving inmate counts, security, possession of contraband by inmates and offender safety concerns, according to the letter. “The violations are so serious that the Department will begin depopulating Avalon Tulsa immediately” of its nearly 200 inmates, Hines wrote, adding that the evidence showed a breach that goes to the heart of the contract. The contract would be cancelled, the letter said. “The Department has lost confidence in the administration of the Tulsa facility,” Hines wrote. The letter ordered all inmates removed from the facility within 10 days and limited the department’s inmate count at Avalon’s Oklahoma City facility, the Carver Center, to 225. In November, The Oklahoman reported allegations that inmates were participating in organized fights sanctioned by officers at the Avalon halfway house in Tulsa. In January, a video showing a fight between two inmates at the facility was posted by theOklahoman, the Tulsa World and other media outlets. Avalon also has come under scrutiny over its halfway house for women in Turley, called the Turley Residential Center. Two lawsuits in Tulsa County allege that Avalon did not report incidents of sexual abuse and discriminated against a volunteer, according to a Tulsa World report in November. Incident reports also alleged other misconduct, including inappropriate relationships between staff and offenders and inmates testing positive for drug use. A corporate attorney for Avalon denied the allegations. The issue of Avalon’s Tulsa facility was discussed during January’s Board of Corrections meeting, where Costello offered to replace the site’s administrator and pay for a full-time Corrections Department monitor at the facility. State Rep. Gus Blackwell, R-Laverne, also spoke at the meeting, urging the board not to remove all inmates from the Tulsa facility because of an already overcrowded prison system and concerns about guard safety. Costello said Thursday that he has heard the FBI may be looking into the matter, but his company has not been contacted by federal investigators. Costello also said Avalon is working with the Corrections Department to come up with a list of changes to make to get the facility re-opened and re-populated. That list of changes and requirements should be available on Friday, he said. Meanwhile, Tulsa attorney Louis Bullock, who represents some of the former Avalon inmates and who released the fight video to media, said he, too, has heard of an FBI investigation into allegations against Avalon. Bullock said he expects to file litigation in the matter. Despite the problems at halfway houses, Blackwell and Steve Mullins, Gov. Mary Fallin's general counsel, have questioned whether the Corrections Department is following the law by failing to send more offenders to halfway houses, the Tulsa World reported Tuesday. Emails released in November by Fallin’s office show that on March 5 last year, Avalon representatives met with staff members for Fallin and accused the Corrections Department of breaking the law by not placing enough offenders nearing release in halfway houses. Massie told Oklahoma Watch in December that many offenders who would otherwise be eligible to go to halfway houses were not sent there because of public safety concerns, which is an exception written into the law.

Jan 23, 2014 The Oklohoman

TULSA — After the Oklahoma Corrections Department canceled its contract amid three ongoing investigations, a private company has removed 212 state offenders from a Tulsa halfway house. Oklahoma-based Avalon Correctional Services Inc. was given 10 days to take action in a letter from Deputy Director Reginald Hines sent Jan. 14. The letter says the department has “lost confidence in the administration of the Tulsa facility,” and no offenders will be sent there until after the department has completed and reviewed the findings of the investigations. One of those investigations pertains to allegations that officers at the Tulsa facility organized fights between offenders, which The Oklahoman first reported Nov. 23. A video of inmates brawling surrounded by fellow offenders at the facility was made available to the media by Tulsa attorney Louis Bullock last week. Avalon later confirmed the video was shot Aug. 24. Most of the 212 offenders have been transferred to other private halfway houses, and a small number either have been discharged or placed on GPS monitoring. One was sent to Nowata County jail and one more was paroled. Nine of those transferred were sent to the Carver Transitional Center, another halfway house operated by Avalon. At a special meeting Friday of the Oklahoma Board of Corrections, Avalon President Brian Costello proposed removing the Tulsa facility's administrator, Donald Coffman, and offered to pay the salary of a full-time Corrections Department employee to monitor necessary changes to reinstate Avalon's contract with the department. Costello said Wednesday Coffman is still on Avalon's payroll and is working in the company's central office. The Tulsa center will continue to house about 20 people who are paying for their treatment privately, but Costello said he has worries the loss of the state contract could result in permanent closure. “It will take us a while to hopefully restore the faith in our operation by the department, but also the public at large,” Costello said. “We think we provide a service that is essential for Oklahoma, like we do in Texas where, you know, the increase in halfway house usage and treatment usage has actually driven the prison population down.” The Corrections Department also limited to 225 the total number of state offenders the Carver Transitional Center can house. The facility has a 556-bed capacity. Once the department has completed its investigations it will outline a course of action, if any, that can be taken by Avalon to renew its contract with the state to house offenders in the Tulsa center, said Jerry Massie, Corrections Department spokesman. “We'll come up with what we believe are corrective actions that need to occur and see how they'll respond to that,” Massie said.

Jan 21, 2014 The Oklahoman
TULSA — A grainy video shows two shirtless men surrounded by bunks and several male onlookers in an apparent fight circle. The shirtless men touch hands, raise their fists and start taking swings at each other. Attorney Louis Bullock said the cellphone video depicts an officer-organized fight at a halfway house the state Corrections Department is in the process of shutting down. In the video, another man holds what appears to be cash and tells one of the fighters that if he wins he will get paid. Amid encouragement from those watching, the two shirtless men throw wild punches. One man unsuccessfully attempts to body slam the other before the pair wrestle into a bunk and then the ground. The man on top lands several blows to the other man's head and kicks him once with a booted foot before other offenders pull them apart. The fight takes place at the Avalon Correctional Center in Tulsa, operated by Oklahoma-based Avalon Corrections Services Inc., and is at the heart of an ongoing investigation by the state Corrections Department's internal affairs division, Bullock said.

>>READ: Safety concerns prompt Oklahoma corrections officials to order removal of inmates from private center

>>READ: Oklahoma Corrections Department investigates reports of fight at halfway house

>>READ: DOC letter to Brian Costello

It is not clear when the fight occurred. The attorney said he has been speaking to several offenders from the facility who he says were coerced, or in some cases forced, into fights. Bullock said he plans to pursue a civil rights lawsuit against Avalon. He said he has been told by multiple parties, including one of the offenders depicted in the video, that two officers at the facility were not only present during the fight, but they condoned it. “It tells me that this event was sanctioned, and it supports the view that these types of fights were not exceptional,” Bullock said. Bullock alleges that not only did guards facilitate the altercations, the center's administrator, Donnie Coffman, was involved as well. “... I have inmates who have reported that they were ordered by Coffman to assault other inmates,” Bullock said, adding that no action was taken by halfway house administrators when inmates complained fights were about to take place. Official denies role Coffman said he never encouraged or ordered any type of assault, nor has he seen the video. “Was I aware of the video? I was told that there was one, but my bosses are dealing with it, but I didn't know anything about it, and they're trying to say that I organized fights, and that's not true,” Coffman said Thursday. Coffman said he has been with Avalon for seven years, serving as the center's administrator since 2010. He said he also has worked for the state Office of Juvenile Affairs and the Corrections Department. In a letter Tuesday to Avalon, the department demanded the company remove all 212 inmates from the Tulsa facility due to three active investigations. The letter also states the department has lost confidence in the facility's administration. Coffman acknowledged that cellphones, which are illegal for offenders to posses while incarcerated, and drugs have been problems at the center. “We've probably taken, I don't know, 50 or 60 cellphones away from them every 90 days,” Coffman said. “As far as drugs, yes, they go out in the public, and these are inmates that come here with drug habits and ... come straight from a facility with a drug habit.” Avalon's president and chief operations officer, Brian Costello, did not return calls seeking comment. Three investigations: One of the Corrections Department investigations is into the video and the possibility that guards were organizing fights between offenders, said Jerry Massie, department spokesman. Massie confirmed the investigation has been going on since at least November, when The Oklahoman first reported the presence of a video. He declined to comment on the other two investigations. The video is one of at least two said to exist, and Coffman said one of the two officers alleged to be captured on film has been fired, but Coffman would not say when he was let go. Lynn Powell, director of OK-Cure, the state branch of a national organization seeking changes to the criminal justice system, said she has seen a second video of a different fight that clearly shows two officers initiating a fight between offenders. Powell, who has been inside the Tulsa facility, said the video obtained by The Oklahoman also takes place there.


Jan 15, 2014 The Oklahoman

The state Corrections Department is demanding an Oklahoma company immediately remove all inmates from a halfway house amid allegations that officers staged fights among offenders. In a letter Tuesday to Avalon Corrections Services Inc., the department said it is freezing the number of Oklahoma offenders it sends to the company's facilities and allowing 10 days to transfer all 212 individuals in the Avalon Correctional Center, a 390-bed halfway house in Tulsa. Those offenders will be transferred to various other facilities in the state, possibly including another Avalon center, said Jerry Massie, Corrections Department spokesman. The move comes in response to three investigations the department is conducting at the center. Massie confirmed one of the three investigations involves allegations of officer-organized fighting between inmates, which The Oklahoman reported in November. The facility's administrator, Donnie Coffman, at that time told The Oklahoman he had spoken to his corporate office about a video of the fighting rumored to be circulating, but questioned its existence. “I'd have to see this video to believe it to be true,” Coffman said. “What you're asking about is as far fetched at this facility as you can imagine.” This is the first time the state Corrections Department has called for a private facility to be depopulated over safety concerns, Massie said. The letter from Reginald Hines, deputy director of the state Corrections Department, states that department officials have lost confidence in the facility's administration. Massie said he could not comment on whether they are going to ask that administrators be removed from the center, but the letter did stipulate any transfers of staff from the Tulsa facility to their Carver Correctional Center in Oklahoma City must be approved by the department. “Once the investigation is finished and we reviewed all the evidence, we'll provide Avalon with what we feel are the necessary requirements to contract with them again,” Massie said. In an emailed response provided to The Oklahoman, Brian Costello, president and chief operating officer of Avalon, called the move “unprecedented and unwarranted,” saying not only will it result in the loss of jobs and reintegration opportunities for 100 inmates and jobs for 40 workers, it “will likely result in the permanent closure of the facility and the loss of 390 beds to the state.” In 2008, a similar Avalon facility in Greeley, Colo., was closed by that state amid reports of sexual, drug and weapons-related misconduct. About 100 offenders were transferred to other facilities, and Avalon no longer operates that halfway house or any other facilities in Colorado. Costello said they will be taking the necessary actions to propose a safe alternative to the facility's closure, but he expressed disdain over the removal of offenders, calling it politically motivated. “It is no secret that certain individuals within the DOC would like to see the failure of the Halfway House system in Oklahoma,” Costello said. “The former Director of the DOC is on record stating that he doesn't believe private companies should be in the corrections business. That view is shared by others in the department.” Justin Jones, former executive director of the Oklahoma Department of Corrections, was public in his objections to the use of private prisons, after he stepped down from the post in August.

August 9, 2010 Tulsa World
In a cost-cutting move, the Oklahoma Department of Corrections is eliminating some of its community-level beds in Tulsa. The agency has canceled a contract with Avalon Correctional Services for beds to house offenders put on public works crews in Tulsa, department Director Justin Jones said. The offenders are being moved to other facilities. Avalon President Brian Costello said the contract involves about 75 offenders. With those beds empty, the company will have trouble keeping its building open, he said. "We are exploring some options to try to find a different population to go in there. It doesn't look promising," Costello said. Jones said the state inmates should be out of Avalon's building at 1727 Charles Page Blvd. by about Sept. 1.

June 29, 2005
Tuesday night prison guards are being accused of taking bribes.  We're told they're taking money and letting prisoners out of jail. Nick Winkler found out why prisoners say it's easy to get out. The music was not so sweet a few weeks ago. Sources say the thieves who broke James McGinley's window and stole his radio should've been in prison instead they paid guards at a half-way house $50 to let them out for the night. Lawyer Mark Bright represents a man who once stayed at the Carver Center the man says he has seen guards take money from prisoners. Sources say prisoners would return in time to be counted by the bribed guard the next morning avoiding new guards during shift changes. And it's those guards McGinley says should pay for the damage to his car. After college McGinley wants to be a cop to catch criminals and the guards who set them free for bribes. A spokesperson at the Carver Center says the Center is not aware of any guards taking bribes but will investigate.

March 25, 2005 Tulsa World
A man was charged Thursday with escape, car theft, drunken driving and other counts amid accusations that he stole a Collinsville police car after being arrested Saturday night.
Franklin Eugene Klutts Jr. also faces charges of driving with a revoked license and four other counts. Klutts is alleged to have escaped earlier Saturday from an Avalon Correctional Services facility in Tulsa.

A man who fled from a traffic stop Friday morning was believed to have been a correctional center escapee who has been a fugitive since May.  Jack L. Billingslea, 34, was serving sentences at Avalon Correctional Center in Tulsa for concealing stolen property, assaulting a police officer, possessing a stolen vehicle and driving under the influence of alcohol, Corrections Department records show.  When a Tulsa County deputy stopped a vehicle about 9 a.m. in the 3000 block of Charles Page Boulevard, a passenger jumped out and ran, Chief Deputy Brian Edwards said. The driver told authorities that the passenger was Billingslea. Deputies and Tulsa police searched the area, but Billingslea was never found.  (Tulsa World, July 24, 2004)

Avalon Correctional Services
Dec 14, 2018 star-telegram.com
Judge rejects halfway house claim that it wasn’t responsible for rapist who escaped
A judge ruled Thursday that a jury should decide whether a private prison corporation’s negligence led to a woman’s sexual assault.
Avalon Correctional Services filed a motion asking State District Judge John Chupp to dismiss a lawsuit accusing it of negligence and he said “no.” Avalon owned the halfway house in the 600 block of North Henderson Street in Fort Worth that two sex offenders walked away from in 2015. One escapee was found less than a month later on a South Carolina beach, dead from a self-inflicted gunshot wound. The other, Charles Sprague, 48, was arrested and sentenced to four life prison terms in 2016 for the woman’s sexual assault, among other crimes. A year earlier, Sprague was serving time at the halfway house after being placed in the Texas civil commitment program, which is for inmates who have served their prison sentences for sex offenses but have been found to have a “behavioral abnormality” making them likely to commit more crimes. In April 2015, Sprague cut off his ankle monitor and walked away from the halfway house. Just a few hours later, he met a woman identified in court documents as Jane Doe and threatened to shoot her if she did not have oral sex with him, according to the lawsuit. Sprague was arrested at WinStar Casino in Thackerville, Okla., two days after he left the halfway house. Jason Smith, who is representing Jane Doe, said at Thursday’s hearing that Avalon officials did not call police until three hours after they found out that Sprague had escaped. Avalon “failed to recognize the risks that violent sexual predators represented to the community,” Smith said. “That explains why they did not immediately call the police.” William D. Wassdorf, who represented Avalon at the hearing, argued that Avalon’s contract with the state did not obligate it to control Sprague’s actions and that Avalon had fulfilled its contractual obligations by notifying state officials that Sprague had escaped. “I would have called the police 100 percent of the time if I were housing a violent sexual offender,” the judge said before ruling that the lawsuit could proceed. “You call the cops to alert the community.” Avalon negotiated with state officials to receive more money to do a better security job with violent sex offenders such as Sprague but failed to increase its security measures, the lawsuit says. Avalon attempted to have the state move Sprague and similar inmates elsewhere, and when those inmates were not moved, Avalon continued to house them, according to the lawsuit. Sprague had served two prior prison sentences for aggravated sexual assault and for aggravated kidnapping/sexual abuse and was declared a violent sexual offender by the state. After his release from prison, he was placed in the Texas civil commitment program. He was sentenced to life in 2016 for violating conditions of his civil commitment and on kidnapping, aggravated sexual assault and robbery convictions.

Apr 22, 2016 newsok.com
Search of Oklahoma City halfway house nets drug cache
Department of Corrections officers found drugs, alcohol and other contraband in a sweep of the Carver Transitional Center on Tuesday. Methamphetamine, marijuana, weapons and other contraband were found during a surprise search of a halfway house in southwest Oklahoma City. Nearly 40 grams of marijuana, a half gram of methamphetamine, alcohol and 26 cellphones were among the contraband found Tuesday at the Carver Transitional Center, 400 S May Ave., according to a news release. Thirty officers with the Department of Corrections conducted the three-and-a-half hour sweep of the facility, which is under the overview of the DOC, but owned and operated by Corrections Corporation of America. Corrections Director Joe M. Allbaugh said inmates at a transitional center are under the same restrictions as in state prisons. The inmates are allowed to leave during the day to work and are required to pass through a security checkpoint when they return in the evenings.   Department of Corrections officers found drugs, alcohol and other contraband in a sweep of the Carver Transitional Center on Tuesday. [Photo Provided] Photo -  Department of Corrections officers found drugs, alcohol and other contraband in a sweep of the Carver Transitional Center on Tuesday. “It is unacceptable for inmates to walk past a security check point with the volume of contraband items that were found inside the facility,” Allbaugh said. “This kind of negligence will end immediately. I expect the full cooperation of CCA as we review its safety protocols. “The difference with a contraband issue at a facility like Carver is the inmates are literally walking in the front door with items. At a regular prison facility, the inmates are sneaking it in under the radar,” Allbaugh said. Also found during the sweep were a bottle of vodka, two syringes, two knives, a screwdriver, a pair of pliers, wire cutters and $596 in cash.

Nov 24, 2015 correctionalnews.com

CCA Acquires Avalon Correctional Services

NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Nashville-based Corrections Corporation of America (CCA), the nation’s largest private prisons operator, grew on Oct. 29 when it announced the purchase of Oklahoma City, Okla.-based Avalon Correctional Services Inc., a privately held company that provides residential reintegration programming to help residents return to their communities. After the purchase, CCA now touts itself as the largest domestic owner of community corrections beds. The $157.5 million deal includes 100 percent of the stock of Avalon Correctional Services Inc., which consists of seven facilities in Texas, three facilities in Oklahoma and one facility in Wyoming, according to a statement. The deal also includes an agreement to purchase an additional facility operated by Avalon, expected to close later in the fourth quarter of 2015. Add 3,157 re-entry beds from these transactions, CCA now owns and operates 17 re-entry facilities that make up 4,365 beds. CCA’s goal for its big push into the residential reintegration market is to expand relationships with existing clients such as the federal Bureau of Prisons, which has roughly 9,000 inmates in re-entry facilities nationwide and is seeking additional funding to expand the program, according to The Tennessean. Inmates in these re-entry programs spend the last six months to a year of their sentence in low-custody facilities. They have the option to own a car and drive it to part- or full-time jobs as well as engage with family members, reported The Tennessean. “We are excited to have Avalon join CCA's expanding network of high-quality residential re-entry operations,” said Damon Hininger, CCA’s CEO, in a statement. “Avalon has a track record of providing exceptional community corrections programming for more than 30 years, which we believe will be enhanced even further by the combined industry knowledge, expertise and resources of CCA.” Hininger added, “The residential re-entry space is a natural extension of the broad re-entry programming and capacity solutions we offer in our correctional facilities. Our government partners around the country are seeking ways to help ex-offenders gain the tools and skills needed to return to their communities successfully, which reduces recidivism and improves the quality of life for former inmates and their families. We believe CCA provides the expertise and compelling value proposition to be the ideal provider of these solutions.” The acquisition of Avalon is expected to increase CCA’s total revenues by approximately $35 million to $40 million.

Aug 19, 2015 okcfox.com

The Oklahoma Department of Corrections has launched an investigation after a video emerged showing what appeared to be an incoherent guard at a correctional facility. The video was sent anonymously to Fox 25, but the DOC says it does appear to be from a facility connected to Avalon Correctional Services, a private company that contracts with the state. In the video, apparently recorded by an offender,  a guard is shown sitting with his head down.  Off camera men can be heard asking the guard if he had used the “K2.”  K2 is often the name associated with an illegal synthetic marijuana drug. The video shows the inmate picking up a hat that has the logo of Avalon Correctional Services on it.  The inmates ask the guard who, appears incoherent, to say an obscenity about “Avalon.”  The inmates are laughing as they tell they man wearing a blue shirt, with a patch or badge on it, they are trying to help him.  The men are heard saying the man needs to get up because he needs to perform the “count.” The person recording the video asks the man wearing the uniform “Did they give you that (explicative deleted)? The man appears to nod in agreement.  The man behind the camera asks, “And you hit it?,” and again the man sitting down nods yes silently while looking at the camera. Last year an Avalon facility in Tulsa came under investigation last year after a different video emerged showing inmates fighting.  The state launched an investigation at that time and removed inmates.  Avalon removed the administrator of the facility. Alex Weintz, the spokesman for Governor Mary Fallin issued a statement saying, “Governor Fallin is aware of the video and finds its contents disturbing and unacceptable. She has asked the DOC to launch an investigation and to take appropriate action based on the results of that investigation.” Avalon Corrections Services SPOKESPERSON Tiffany Smith sent the following statement to Fox 25: “The former Avalon employee on the video in question reported that some offenders took his phone. The former employee abandoned his position at the facility and then called and reported to the Chief of Security that his phone was taken and that he would not return to work. The offenders involved were removed from the halfway house immediately and are now in the county jail. The incident is under investigation and Avalon is fully cooperating with the Oklahoma Department of Corrections. Any additional questions will need to be submitted to the ODOC.” Fox 25 will continue to follow this story, and bring you the latest on the State’s investigation.

Apr 18, 2015
A sex offender in the state’s civil commitment program who walked away from a Fort Worth halfway house Wednesday morning was arrested Friday at an Oklahoma casino, authorities said. Charles Sprague, 44, was taken into custody without incident shortly before 9:45 a.m. at the WinStar casino in Thackerville, Okla. Sprague was being held at the Love County jail in Oklahoma on Friday and is expected to be returned to Texas on Monday, said Sgt. Lonny Haschel, a Texas Department of Public Safety spokesman. Investigators are talking to Sprague to try to reconstruct his steps after he cut off a tracking device and walked away from a Henderson Street halfway house. The facility is operated by Avalon Correctional Services. Sprague is a twice-convicted sex offender who was placed under civil commitment after he served prison sentences for his crimes. Sprague has served two prison sentences since 1991, one for aggravated sexual assault and the other for aggravated kidnapping/sexual abuse. Sprague is also being investigated in connection with a carjacking in North Richland Hills on Wednesday. “There’s a strong connection between the individual that was arrested and the suspect in the kidnapping,” said investigator Keith Bauman, a North Richland Hills police spokesman. A gunman confronted a woman in the parking lot of a call center in the 5200 block of Rufe Snow Drive and forced her to get into her Toyota 4Runner while he took the wheel, Bauman said earlier. He drove the SUV around the corner and let the woman out behind a vacant building in the 6500 block of Iron Horse Drive, Bauman said. U.S. marshals, the Lighthorse Police Department in Oklahoma and the Oklahoma Highway Patrol assisted in Spague’s apprehension, Haschel said.

Jan 11, 2014 ringoffireradio.com

Private prison corporations have been long-time bedfellows with state politicians across the country. The companies’ grip appears especially tight on Oklahoma politicians as they have shelled out over $400,000 on political contributions over the last decade. Now, the Oklahoma governor’s staff is slowing the law’s implementation. Oklahoma currently holds some of the highest per capita incarceration rates in the country, having the country’s highest female incarceration rate and the fourth highest male incarceration rate. From 2000 to 2010, Oklahoma’s prison population growth outpaced the state’s population growth. And Oklahoma is running short on money and resources to properly house inmates and run its prisons. Last year, the Oklahoma state legislature passed the Justice Reinvestment Initiative (JRI) in an effort to reduce the state’s ever-increasing incarceration rates. The reform would avoid jail time for non-violent offenders and, instead, utilize “proven treatment and intervention strategies.”  Private prison corporations wanted to cut themselves in on the law and increase their profits by having use of their halfway houses written into the law’s provisions. Oklahoma Gov. Mary Fallin and other state officials initially supported the law, but perceived support has tapered since the governor’s office actively undermined the JRI’s implementation committee’s efforts. The governor’s office also rejected federal funds intended to get the JRI off of the ground. Recently surfaced emails from within Fallin’s staff illustrate a collective concern over the JRI as they believed it made the administration appear “soft on crime.” The state of Oklahoma has a reputation for being the exact opposite. “In order to get elected in Oklahoma, you have to be quote-on-quote ‘tough on crime,’” said reform advocate and former Oklahoma House Speaker Kris Steele. Whenever the law passed with Fallin’s support, other conservatives met her with opposition. Her biggest fear for this year is inter-party opposition, and that fear may be coming to pass. Randy Brogdon, an Oklahoma tea partier, announced that he would run for governor against Fallin in the GOP primary this year as Fallin up for re-election. With a GOP primary on Fallin’s heels and the JRI appearing as a blemish on her administration, the prison reform’s implementation has been tentative at best. Steele believes that because the JRI is a potential threat to Fallin’s political position, her administration lightened up its support. Reform supporters also believe that Steele was politically maneuvered out of a leadership role with an implementation oversight group. Oklahoma’s prison reform is at odds with contractual agreements between the private prison’s and the state. Provisions of the contract illustrate that the state must maintain an agreed upon “bed rate” in the private prisons or else the state must pay a monetary penalty. This penalty is naturally paid for out of the state budget which burdens its taxpayers. Oklahoma’s prison occupancy quota is among the highest in the nation. The state has three contracts with private prisons that must maintain a 98 percent occupancy at all times. This agreement is a huge profit center for the prison corporations, and they contribute money to candidates who will bolster “tough on crime” laws to ensure maximum occupancy. Corrections Corporation of America (CCA), The Geo Group, Inc., and Avalon Correctional Services Inc. are the main prison contributors to Oklahoma politicians. Contributions have already surpassed $50,000 for 2014 re-election campaigns and have funded many things from political initiatives to other campaigns and the Oklahoma Speaker’s Ball. Fallin is the top active recipient of contributions, receiving $38,950 from private prisons.  

tulsaworld.com, Nov 17, 2013

Three years of serious incident reports at the Turley Residential Center detail inappropriate staff and offender relationships, inmates reporting sexual abuse while on work release, inmates disappearing and testing positive for drug use after returning late, and staff charging offenders $20 to get confiscated cellphones back. In most cases, the reports don't document whether staff at the privately operated halfway house contacted law enforcement, nor do they detail any conclusions reached by investigators. Two recently filed lawsuits allege that the halfway house's private operators, Avalon Correctional Services, failed to report sexual abuse and discriminated against a longtime volunteer, and records show a multitude of other problems at the Turley Residential Center, a Tulsa World investigation shows. Volunteers running programs for inmates on faith, success and self-esteem were banned from the facility while others were allowed in to peddle lingerie, sex toys and beauty products, the federal discrimination suit alleges. Spencer Bryan, a Tulsa attorney representing the inmates suing Avalon in Tulsa County District Court for allegedly not reporting sexual abuse that happened while on work release, said the Turley Residential Center is "operating without oversight." "There's a substantial lack of compliance with their record-keeping," Bryan said. "(There's information) that is supposed to be transmitted to DOC, and obviously DOC's not doing anything about it." The World requested interviews and emailed questions to officials at Avalon and the state Department of Corrections. Officials at DOC did not respond prior to publication. Rod Nixon, corporate counsel for Avalon, responded by email to the World's questions. Nixon declined to discuss details because of pending litigation. "I will generally state that her allegations are incorrect and that the allegations are denied," he said. Compliance issues: Each private prison facility in Oklahoma has a Department of Corrections contract monitor, who is required to conduct monthly compliance checks. From January 2011 through August 2013, Turley's contract monitor reports make no mention of any of the serious incident reports obtained by the World or include any results of any of those investigations. The single-page monthly reports mention dirty showers, roof leaks, incomplete paperwork, medical transfers, new hires and the types of vegetables planted in the garden. There are no mentions of the sexual abuse allegations or explanations for why two longtime volunteers were banned from the facility. The same month that records show a volunteer notified staff of an inmate's complaint about sexual harassment by a facility employee, the contract monitor's report states: "Staff and offenders appear to be doing well. There were very little concerns from both." A June 2012 contract monitor's report appears to be concerned with filling beds at Avalon's Turley facility: "Have Case Management staff review the 46 offenders and see how many are under 1,900 days remaining. Will talk to Warden Moham about sending offenders to Turley. There are 3 dorms that are empty." Rickey Moham is the current warden at Mabel Bassett Correctional Center, and he was previously warden at Eddie Warrior. Both are Oklahoma's largest women's prisons. The facility's most recent audit by the Department of Corrections reports that missing Turley inmates went undetected for several hours or even overnight and that staff did not document job site checks for inmates or submit paperwork for transfers. Case workers had not been to DOC case management training, and "none of the staff have completed a waiver permitting the District Supervisor to review employee qualifications and disciplinary records," according to the audit. The World obtained these records through an Open Records Act request made Aug. 20, but it took DOC nearly seven weeks to review and provide the requested documents. Discrimination lawsuit: Pamela Smith, whose foundation ran the "My Turning Point" program for two years at the Turley Residential Center, said she was told by administrator Alice Johnson she was getting kicked out for bringing donated dinner rolls to feed the inmates at the facility. Smith said the rolls weren't the reason she was kicked out, but rather that she witnessed and heard things she shouldn't have at Turley — tables of "hooker gear" for sale and inmates' tales of sexual abuse. Her discrimination lawsuit alleges that though the administrator was herself black, "she has shown a certain prejudice against other black women, specifically those black women who demonstrate self-respect and who are successful or attempting to achieve success." The suit is pending in the Northern District of U.S. District Court. "Pamela Smith is trying to make good people out of people who've made a mistake," said Anthony Allen, her attorney. Smith said she frequently gave inmates things they needed — clothes for work, toilet paper and donated food given to her by supporters. For two years, officials didn't have a problem with it, she said. Leo Brown, volunteer coordinator for DOC, wrote Smith a letter in June saying her volunteer status was suspended for not following rules and guidelines and not getting prior approval to bring the dinner rolls to inmates at Turley. Work release jobs for any offenders she employed at her foundation's thrift shop were allowed to continue, the letter states. In a July 29 letter, Johnson states the "My Turning Point" program was being canceled at Turley for bringing "unauthorized items" — wigs and dinner rolls — into the facility and "unprofessional/confrontational behavior." "I did bring bread in," Smith said. "I brought bread in for two years, and Miss Johnson ate the bread." Smith said as someone who spent time in prison herself more than a decade ago, she only wants to help the inmates at Turley. Any potential damages received from the lawsuit will go directly toward continuing the My Turning Point program, she said. "(Johnson) was mad because I saw the hooker stuff and the girls started to tell me things," Smith said. "I wanted to make sure nobody mistreats these girls." The lawsuit alleging sexual abuse of inmates was filed in Tulsa County District Court in August. It alleges Turley's female inmates were routinely subjected to sexual battery and harassment by employers through work-release programs. The inmates said they were subjected to unwanted and repeated touching and groping of the buttocks and breasts, pulling down clothing to expose body parts and unwanted kissing. When the women reported the abuses to Avalon staff, the staff would retaliate against them by issuing unfounded misconducts, accusing them of lying, refusing to contact law enforcement or discharging them from the facility, according to the lawsuit.

Aug 29, 2013 tribtown.com

TULSA, Oklahoma — A group of female inmates has filed a negligence lawsuit against the private company operating a halfway house in suburban Tulsa, alleging they were routinely subjected to sexual battery and harassment while participating in a work-release program. The lawsuit was filed against Oklahoma City-based Avalon Correctional Services, which operates the Turley Residential Center for female inmates. At least 20 women have made allegations, and more victims may come forward, attorney J. Spencer Bryan told the Tulsa World (http://bit.ly/18hPTrg ). Bryan said the abuses involved a work-release employer in the food services industry. The work-release program offers job training and classes to prepare inmates to re-enter the workforce as they complete jail or prison sentences. "Different women had different experiences, but sexual battery is the most common theme," Bryan said. "Those allegations generally involve unwanted and repeated touching and groping of the buttocks and breasts, pulling down clothing to expose body parts and unwanted kissing." Several of the women said the employer would "gloat that nobody would believe them because they're inmates," Bryan said. The lawsuit says the Avalon staff retaliated against the women and accused them of lying after the alleged abuse was reported. "Despite communicating these complaints to Avalon, nothing was being done," Bryan said. Avalon President Brian Costello said he couldn't comment on specific allegations because he hadn't yet seen the lawsuit. "I don't know specifics of the individual claims, so it's very difficult to know what we're talking about," Costello said. "We have been made aware of one instance with one employer that was investigated. That is the only instance that we have ever been made aware of." But if there is any indication of a problem with an employer, the inmates are immediately removed and placed in jobs elsewhere, Costello said. "We take those allegations seriously. We're pretty happy with the program and our relationship" with the Oklahoma Department of Corrections, Costello said.

May 19, 2013 www.tulsaworld.com

OKLAHOMA CITY - Private prison interests have given nearly $200,000 in campaign dollars and gifts to 79 of the 149 members of the state Legislature since 2004, a Tulsa World analysis shows. From a meal valued at $3.87 for one lawmaker to $22,500 toward T.W. Shannon's Speaker's Ball, private prison and halfway house influence has become well entrenched at the state Capitol. As the state's prison population has climbed, so has spending on private prisons, which was nearly $73 million last fiscal year, up from slightly more than $57 million in fiscal year 2004. Halfway-house expenditures were nearly $14 million in fiscal year 2012, up slightly from more than $12 million in fiscal year 2004. Since 2004, lobbyists, private prison and halfway house employees have given $375,425 to 165 elected officials and candidates for office. The contributions and gifts come from lobbyists and others affiliated with Avalon Correctional Services, The GEO Group Inc. and Corrections Corporation of America. All three have operations in the state. The lobbyists' representation is not limited to one private prison or halfway house company. They have contracts to represent dozens of far-ranging interests. House Speaker T.W. Shannon, R-Lawton, is the top recipient of private prison-linked dollars. Shannon has received $34,950. The sum includes $22,500 donated by three private prison companies to fund the 2013 Speaker's Ball. People make donations to the speaker's campaign because of his ideals, not to buy a spot for theirs, said Joe Griffin, a Shannon spokesman. "This office makes decisions based on what is best for Oklahoma," Griffin said. Gov. Mary Fallin ranks No. 2 in private prison dollars. Private prison interests, which include employees, political action committees and lobbyists employed by the companies, have donated $33,608 to her campaigns. "Campaign donations do not affect the way Gov. Fallin makes policy decisions, period," said Alex Weintz, a Fallin spokesman. Because she ran a large statewide campaign, it is not surprising that she has large amounts of contributions from any particular group of donors, he said. Senate Appropriations Chairman Clark Jolley, R-Edmond, is the top recipient of private prison and halfway house dollars in the Senate and No. 3 recipient among elected officials overall. Jolley has reported receipts totaling $30,450 toward his campaigns. Jolley said employees of Avalon live in his district, which could account for his ranking. Jolley said people are going to believe what they want about politicians and donations. "But my vote is not for sale," Jolley said. "It never has been. It never will be." State Treasurer Ken Miller received the bulk of his contributions in his current position but collected $2,250 as a member of the Oklahoma House. Political action committees representing CCA and The GEO Group also have donated nearly $100,000 since 2004 to candidates. In 2012, private prison interests donated nearly $50,000 to campaigns. Private prison interests donated $72,900 to 2010 campaigns, records show. In 2008 and 2006, private prison interests donated a respective $72,900 and $71,395 to political campaigns. Republicans, who control houses of the Legislature and all elected state offices, have received about 83 percent of the contributions from private prisons since 2004. Since 2010, The GEO Group and Avalon Correctional Services both reported gifts to various lawmakers and legislative staff. Most of the gifts were given while the Legislature was in session. Cooper "Brett" Robinson, a lobbyist on behalf of Geo Group, paid for $865.71 in meals and a "movie night" for lawmakers and their spouses during 2010 and 2011. His clients range from Bank of Oklahoma to the City of Oklahoma City, according to a filing with the Oklahoma Ethics Commission. Tammie Kilpatrick, a lobbyist for Corrections Corporation of America who has also worked for Avalon, reported paying for meals valued at $235 for legislative staff and one lawmaker over 2010 and 2011. She works for one of the larger if not the largest lobbying firms in the state, with dozens of clients. Private prison lobbyists reported no gifts to lawmakers in 2012. Reports for the first half of 2013 won't be due until later. Steve Owen, a spokesman for Corrections Corporation of America, said lobbyists who work for the company do not make donations on the company's behalf. The company has four private prisons in the state, two of which are under contract with Oklahoma. Another one houses California inmates. The fourth is not operational. "Lobbyists represent dozens of clients," Owen said. "To attribute whatever contributions lobbyists make to a specific client, I don't know. Unless there is some evidence and information that support that the two are connected, I don't know how anyone can make that claim." Corrections Corporation of America supports candidates who are generally supportive of public-private partnerships, Owen said. "A big part of what we are doing is educating elected officials and policymakers on the merits of public-private partnerships," Owen said. Brian Costello, Avalon president and chief operating officer, said his company ended its lobbying contract because it could no longer afford it. The company, which has halfway houses, has a lot of empty beds not being used by the Department of Corrections, he said, adding that reimbursement rates have been frozen. "I guess my point would be that it is clear we are not buying any influence but support candidates that provide good government to the state," Costello said. The GEO Group declined a request for a phone interview but issued a statement saying it provided significant savings to the state and quality services. "Our company participates in the political process, as do other organizations including private corporations and organized labor organizations, through lobbyist representation and political contributions," part of the statement said. Sen. Constance Johnson, D-Forest Park, has been a longtime, largely unsuccessful advocate for sentencing reform and opponent of longer sentences and additional penalties. "I am shocked but not surprised," Johnson said of the donations. "My take is that what I have noticed about how the policies are flowing, pro-private prisons, pro-enhanced felonies, the thing I stand up and argue about all the time. Follow the money. This whole notion of special interests having undue influence on the legislative process, this is proof."


Top recipients of private prison donations, 2004 to present

Speaker T.W. Shannon (R) $34,950*

Gov. Mary Fallin (R) $33,608

Sen. Clark Jolley (R) $30,450

Treasurer Ken Miller (R)  $15,000

Insurance Comm. John Doak (R)  $12,639

Sen. Rob Johnson (R)  $10,200

Sen. Don Barrington (R)  $9,650

Lt. Gov. Todd Lamb (R)  $8,750

Rep. Todd Thomsen (R)  $8,200

Sen. Dan Newberry (R)  $7,750

*Includes $22,500 for Speaker's Ball

17 November 2012 Melodika
Avalon Correctional Services, Inc. (CITY.PK) and Donald and Tiffany Smith announce that they and The Ravenswood Investment Company, L.P. and Ravenswood Investments III, L.P. have entered into a definitive settlement of  the derivative lawsuit titled Ravenswood Investment Company, L.P. and Ravenswood Investments III, L.P. v. Avalon Correctional Services, Inc., Tiffany Smith and Donald E. Smith , 09-CV-00070-R (W.D. Okla.). Under the terms of the settlement, Avalon will submit an offer to purchase the common shares of Avalon held by all of Avalon's non-management minority shareholders for $4.05 in cash plus the pro rata portion of the remaining amount of a fee and expense pool, if any, that is not used to pay any fees and expenses that may be awarded by the Court (an amount between $0 and $0.30 per share inclusive) and, subject to certain exceptions, a callable three-year, non-voting new preferred share of Avalon with a $1.75 face amount and an annual dividend of 7%, paid quarterly. The settlement which will resolve all claims in the litigation is not an admission of wrongdoing or liability by any of the defendants.  The settlement is subject to the approval of the United States District Court for the Western District of Oklahoma following notice to all shareholders and a hearing  as well as certain other conditions.  A motion for such Court approval was filed on November 16, 2012 and it is anticipated that any Avalon shareholders who object to the settlement will have the opportunity to be heard.  It is further anticipated that the approval process will take between 90 to 120 days although it could be longer.  If approved, the offer to purchase will be made and shareholders will have 90 days in which to accept the offer. Given the potential cost and burden of continued litigation, Avalon believes that settling this lawsuit is in the best interest of all Avalon stakeholders.  The Company is pleased to resolve this matter and put the Ravenswood derivative litigation behind it. The purpose of this press release is to make a general public announcement concerning the settlement and does not contain all of the terms and conditions of the settlement.  The definitive settlement documents are attached to the motion filed in the litigation pending in the Western District of Oklahoma on November 16, 2012.  This communication shall not constitute an offer to sell or buy or the solicitation of an offer to sell or buy any securities. 

December 17, 2006 Tulsa World
Brent VanMeter, a top-level state official until he was arrested six years ago, is now working for a company that runs halfway houses for inmates. VanMeter, who was convicted of bribery and sent to federal prison, is reticent about the past or his new life that includes a job with Avalon Correctional Services Inc. "But I do think I have something to contribute. I think I have empathy for what those people are going through," he said. "Those people" are convicted felons with 1,000 or fewer days remaining in their sentences who are living in halfway houses and have 30 days to get jobs before they are released for good. It was six years ago when federal officers showed up at the state Department of Health with 13 search warrants and arrested VanMeter, deputy health commissioner in charge of nursing homes. A 20-year veteran of the department, he was a likely candidate to one day become state commissioner of health. In December 2000, VanMeter was sentenced to federal prison on charges of taking bribes from a nursing home operator. He also was accused of taking part in paying "ghost workers" who did not show up for work. He later pleaded guilty to conspiring to deprive Oklahomans of the right to honest services from a state official. U.S. District Judge Robin Cauthron, who pronounced one of his sentences, said the vulnerability of nursing home clients made VanMeter's crime worse and it was necessary that he be punished to set an example for the public. Testimony showed that he was using the money from nursing home operators to feed his gambling habit. On the day of his arrest, VanMeter had left the office to place bets on races. VanMeter said he is lucky to realize now that "you are not always in control like you think you are; there are outside influences." "I did have, I do have a gambling problem, something I've dealt with and continue to deal with. "I don't do that anymore. That was a whole period a long time ago. It was one that I would just as soon put behind me. Hopefully I have and other people will, too."

February 3, 2005 Yahoo
Avalon Correctional Services, Inc. announced today it has filed a Form 15 to terminate the Company's common stock registration under the Securities and Exchange Act of 1934 ("the Act"). The Company's obligation to file periodic reports with the SEC including reports on forms 10-K, 10-Q, 8-K, and the Company's proxy statement is suspended with the filing of the Form 15. The deregistration will not become effective until the SEC terminates the registration, which is expected to occur within 90 days. After careful consideration it was determined that deregistering was not only in the overall best interest of all of the Company's stockholders, but it was crucial for the continuation of the Company as a going concern. Those factors included but were not limited to the following: 1. The substantial elimination of significant legal, accounting, and printing costs associated with the preparation and filing of the periodic reports and other filings with the SEC; 2. The elimination of substantial increases in legal, audit, and other costs associated with being a public company in light of new regulations promulgated as a result of the Sarbanes-Oxley Act of 2002, specifically Section 404 of the Act, and the SEC rules thereunder; 3. The financial impact of the estimated cost to be incurred during 2005 to comply with Section 404 of the Act could place the Company into default with existing loan covenants; 4. The financial impact of the estimated cost to be incurred during 2005 to comply with Section 404 of the Act could eliminate the Company's ability to access funds for current operations and future growth. 5. The financial impact of the estimated cost to be incurred during 2005 to comply with Section 404 of the Act could jeopardize the Company's ability to continue as a going concern;
The Company's shares will no longer be listed on the NASDAQ Small Cap market.

January 19, 2005 Reuters
Shares of Avalon Correctional Services Inc. (CITY.O: Quote, Profile, Research) fell 8 percent on Wednesday after the company said it received a notice of delisting or transfer from the Nasdaq stock exchange. The private prison operator said the Nasdaq's letter, received Jan. 12, stated that it must provide evidence of compliance with the exchange's rules on independent directors and audit committees or else face delisting. Two of the board's three audit committee members -- Chairman Robert McDonald and Charles Thomas -- resigned from the board effective Dec. 30, Avalon said on Tuesday. The company, based in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, said it has not decided how to respond to the Nasdaq letter. It is evaluating whether to remain a publicly traded company given the various costs of complying with the Sarbanes Oxley Act. Avalon shares were down 20 cents, or 8.2 percent, at $2.25 at midday Wednesday.

Carver Center, Oklahoma City, Oklahoma
December 8, 2006 The Oklahoman
A project by a private corrections company to expand its minimum-security center in Oklahoma City is in jeopardy after a state agency failed Thursday to act on its proposal to sell bonds to finance the deal. Southern Corrections System Inc., which is part of Avalon Correctional Services Inc., sought permission to raise $14.5 million through industrial development revenue bonds. Avalon, based in Oklahoma City, has operations in Oklahoma, Texas and Colorado. The Oklahoma Development Finance Authority earlier approved the deal, but members of the Council of Bond Oversight tabled the proposal. Council Chairman Cliff Elliott said the proposal lacked information. About $300,000 was listed for making improvements and expanding the Carver Center, 400 S May Ave., and about $1 million was proposed to renovate the company’s Riverside Intermediate Sanction Unit in Tulsa from minimum security to medium security. The state Corrections Department leases space in both places to house state inmates. Southern Corrections also wanted to refinance a $3.5 million bond issue, according to its proposal. Council members, after wanting to know how the rest of the proposed bond issue would be spent, were given documents during Thursday’s meeting that showed money was to be spent to build a hangar for the company’s airplane, rebuild the plane’s engines, refinance a loan to buy the plane and purchase vehicles. The rest of the money went to unspecified or unclear purposes. "I don’t know what a lot of these are,” Elliott said. Eric Gray, vice president and corporate lawyer for Southern and Avalon, said after the meeting that a bond closing was set for Dec. 15. "It doesn’t happen is the short answer,” Gray said. "We’re just going to have to regroup. This is a total shock to us.”

Horizon Detention Complex, Horizon City, Texas
A proposal to replace sex offenders with other inmates at the El Paso Multi-Use Facility in Horizon City was met with outrage by the community at a public meeting Wednesday evening. Next year, Avalon would like to change the terms of the contract and stop housing paroled sex offenders, in favor of pre-parolees of various backgrounds. "Even murderers?" exclaimed Horizon resident Brenda Carroll. "When they started, we were told it was going to be white-collar crimes; not it's sex offenders and, what? Murderers? Our kids are the ones playing hide-and-seek around here." (El Paso Times, April 17, 2003)

The El Paso County Sheriff's Department responded to a call of a possibly dangerous escaped prisoner in Horizon City Thursday night, but deputies had to wait about 45 minutes before prison officials would give them useful information to start a manhunt, the Sheriff's Department said. He said he understood that if prison officials suspect that a prisoner has escaped, they first follow prison procedures before contacting the Sheriff's Department. But in this case, he said, someone in the prison called the Sheriff's Department before the prison was ready to give information to the deputies. When deputies arrived, they had to wait for the prison to finish its escapee procedure. "A whole 45 minutes went by before we could do our jobs," Apodaca said. (El Paso Times, March 9, 2002)

Few people can blame Horizon City residents for being concerned about safety in the wake of two inmate escapes in June. The company in charge of these private facilities is challenged to assuage resident's fears with an improved safety performance. The two facilities near Horizon are privately operated. The jury is still out on the state's, and in fact the nation's, experiment with private companies operating prisons and detention facilities. In the bigger picture, taxpayers are left to wonder if these facilities truly are as secure as state-operated prisons. (El Paso Times, September 3, 2001)

When two men escaped within one week in June from the private detention centers near Horizon City, officials said both were freak incidents in a well-run system. But several former inmates of both centers, one a combination minimum-security prison and halfway house for parole violators and one a guarded halfway house for probation violators, said escapes were commonplace and just one of many problems. During their incarceration, they said, escaping was easy, as residents took advantage of guard staffing shortages and the centers' reliance on security cameras to slip away undetected. (El Paso Times, August 29, 2001)

Two men escaped from a Horizon minimum-security detention complex within the past three days -- one after climbing a wall and separating razor wire with his bare hands, the second by simply walking away. The first escapee, Floyd Ray Smith Jr., escaped Monday and was arrested Wednesday in his hometown of Kerrville, Texas, about 500 miles away. The second escapee, Lloyd Jacquez, left the detention complex shortly before 5 a.m. Wednesday and was still missing. (El Paso Times, June 28, 2001) 

Phoenix Center, Adams County, Colorado
Adams County will approve a new community corrections contract, despite one commissioner's concern about the escape of a sex offender from a halfway house. Commissioner Marty Flaum balked at approving the contract last week after learning that John Martinez, 19, had walked away from Phoenix House. Martinez was being held for attempted sexual assault on a minor and attempted menacing. Flaum said a sex offender belongs in prison, not in a halfway house. (Rocky Mountain News, May 23, 2002)

Riverside Intermediate Sanction Unit, Tulsa, Oklahoma
April 6, 2006 AP
A correction center employee has been accused of second-degree rape for allegedly having sex with a prisoner while he was on a work crew. The inmate told an investigator that he met Patricia Thomas, 31, at a motel while he was on an inmate work crew a year ago, said Tiffany Smith, vice president of communications for Avalon Correctional Services, which operates the Riverside Intermediate Sanction Facility in Tulsa. Thomas was a client monitor at the facility. The company fired Thomas after intercepting a letter she sent to the inmate. It is illegal in Oklahoma for any employee of a jail or prison to have sex with an inmate.

October 7, 2004 Tulsa World
A Tulsa escaped felon who gave police a fake name -- while driving with a newspaper article that featured his photo and correct name -- was sentenced Wednesday to four years in prison.
Mark A. Burleson, 23, pleaded guilty to felony charges of escape and false impersonation. Burleson was allowed to work in a kitchen June 18 at Avalon Correctional Services' Riverside Intermediate Sanctions Facility at 1727 Charles Page Blvd. Officials did not notice that he was missing until the morning of June 19, according to reports.

Police are searching for a 30-year-old man charged with escaping from the Tulsa Community Correctional Center.  Nia Malika Gaddis is described as black, 5-foot-8, 160 pounds, with black hair and brown eyes. Court records show he escaped from Riverside Intermediate Sanction Unit in December.  (Tulsa World, July 30, 2004)

But the escapee's fame goes a long way toward helping a traffic cop put him back behind bars. Police caught a correctional center escapee driving 15 mph faster than the speed limit on a city street Friday.  The car had an expired license tag, and a Tulsa World article about his escape -- complete with the man's picture -- was on the front seat beside him.  He had been housed at Avalon Correctional Services' Riverside Intermediate Sanctions Fa-cility, 1727 Charles Page Blvd., since April 15, Avalon President James Saffle said.  When Burleson was allowed to work in the kitchen June 18, he managed to escape. His disappearance was not discovered until a day later.  (Tulsa World, June 26, 2004)

Avalon Correctional Services officials are investigating how an inmate at the company's Tulsa facility escaped Friday but was not noticed missing until Saturday.  Avalon President James Saffle said Burleson, 22, had been at the facility since April 15. On May 5, he was moved to a higher security unit for inmates with disciplinary problems, Saffle said.  He said an employee allowed Burleson to work in the kitchen Friday and that Burleson escaped. Saffle said Burleson, who was not discovered missing until Saturday morning, should not have been working in the kitchen.  Avalon, which leases the Riverside facility from the Tulsa County Criminal Justice Authority, has a contract with the DOC to hold community corrections inmates. The authority voted last year to discontinue a contract with Avalon to hold county in mates at Riverside.  A county inmate who escaped from the facility on Nov. 24, 2002, shot a convenience store clerk to death that Christmas Eve, a month after his escape. The inmate, Markis Daniels Rogers, was convicted last year of murder and robbery and sentenced to life in prison.  Rogers had escaped from the Riverside facility after Avalon employees allowed inmates into the exercise yard at night with no direct supervision. Another inmate escaped the following day, also from the exercise yard.  Following those two escapes, the company said it had stopped the practice of leaving inmates unsupervised in the yard.  However, in October 2003, two inmates escaped through a fence in an exercise yard when they were left unsupervised.  (Tulsa World, June 24, 2004)

A Tulsa County inmate jumped a fence Tuesday afternoon and escaped from the former Adult Detention Center but was caught by police about an hour later. Shane Allen Boggs, 32, escaped about 1:15 p.m. by bolting through a door used by work crews. He gained access to the door after being sent to pick up his medication, according to James Saffle, president of Avalon Correctional Services, which operates the Riverside Intermediate Sanction Unit. Boggs' escape is the third from the Riverside facility in six months. Avalon holds between 80 and 100 county inmates at the Riverside facility at a lesser daily cost than the Tulsa Jail. But the Tulsa County Criminal Justice Authority has opted not to renew Avalon's contract, which expires June 30. (Tulsa World, May 28, 2003)

A woman sues two corrections companies and an escapee who is accused of killing her husband. A wrongful death suit was filed this week in connection with the Christmas Eve shooting of a Tulsa man that allegedly was carried out by an escapee from the Riverside Intermediate Sanction Unit. Virginia Qureshi filed the suit on behalf of her late husband, Zubair Qureshi, previously referred to as Mohammad "James" Qureshi, 53, who was working behind the counter of the 24-hour U-Stop, 2520 E. Mohawk Blvd., when he was killed. Defendants in the suit are the Corrections Corporation of America, which operates the Tulsa Jail; Avalon Correctional Services, which operates the Riverside facility; and Markis Daniels Rogers, who escaped from the Riverside facility Nov. 24. Martin and Associates is representing Qureshi. The law firm alleges that CCA employees transferred Rogers to the low-security Riverside facility operated by Avalon but continued to charge the Tulsa County Criminal Justice Authority to house him. It alleges that CCA paid a Avalon a lower rate to house Rogers and pocketed the difference. Attorney C. Rabon Martin, said that whether CCA made a profit by sending Rogers to the Riverside facility is irrelevant. "The meat and potatoes is that they took a very dangerous guy to Avalon in low-security," he said. Rogers was sent to the Riverside facility by mistake. (Tulsa World, March 27, 2003)

A homeless man who previously escaped from the Riverside Sanction Unit was back in custody this week at the Tulsa Jail after being picked up by police officers on burglary complaints. Richard Lee Bates Jr. escaped from the Riverside facility in November by climbing over two chain-link fences from an unsupervised exercise yard at night. (Tulsa World, January 31, 2003)

A Tulsa halfway house inmate who beat a fellow inmate to death with a TV set last spring was found guilty of first-degree murder Thursday night. The jury recommended life without parole for Robert Spanglo, 47, who was convicted in the March 31 attack on Charles Bush, 34, at the Avalon Correctional Center, 302 W. Archer. Spanglo and Bush were inmates at Avalon, where, during the early morning hours, Spanglo picked up a TV and bashed Bush on the head while Bush was in bed. (Tulsa World, December 14, 2002)

Police and a former guard had expressed concern about security at Riverside Intermediate Sanction Unit before two inmates escaped this week. Donald Montgomery, an administrator for the center run by Avalon, said added security measures were imposed after the escapes. Montgomery dismissed accusations by Bryan Jones, former security superviser for the center. Jones, a former Broken Arrow police officer, said he left his job with Avalon earlier this year because he was afraid he would be held responsible if an inmate or guard were injured. He said Avalon hires people who have no experience, then staffs the facility poorly. Jones also said a urine test was never pursued when he reported an employee who was obviously "high." "Things like that were swept under the rug," he said. "The big thing on their agenda was we were not a correctional facility. They didn't want to appear as a jail." (Oklahoman, December 1, 2002)

A second escape by a Tulsa County inmate in just two days has prompted officials from Avalon Correctional Services to beef up security at the former Adult Detention Center. Richard Lee Bates, 25, escaped about 8 p.m. Monday from an exercise yard at the Riverside Intermediate Sanction Unit. Bates, who is still at large, climbed over two barbed-wire fences. Also at large is Markis Daniels Rogers, 19, who escaped Sunday night. Avalon Administrator Donald Montgomery said Tulsa County inmates are now being held at a medium-security level. Avalon will stop the practice of allowing inmates into the exercise yard without direct supervision. Inmates also will not be allowed outside the building after dark, he said. Tulsa police have been critical of Avalon's staffing levels, and Bryan Jones, a former security supervisor for Avalon, said he believes that six employees is definitely inadequate. "I would want at least 15," he said. (Tulsa World, November 27, 2002)

A Tulsa County inmate who is facing robbery charges remained at large Monday after escaping Sunday night from the former Adult Detention Center. Markis Daniels Rogers,19, escaped from the Riverside Intermediate Sanction Unit's exercise yard by getting past two fences. Razor wire previously topped the fence surrounding all of the units, but Webber said it has been removed. County officials are in the process of finding out what happened to it. Webber said no guards were in the exercise yard when Rogers escaped but that guards rely on security cameras. Rogers was among more than 100 inmates who have been diverted from the Tulsa Jail, operated by Corrections Corporation of America, to the Riverside facility, operated by Avalon Correctional Services, to cut jail costs. Avalon Administrator Donald Montgomery was unavailable for comment, and Avalon's chief operating officer could not be reached. (Tulsa World, November 26, 2002)

A Tulsa halfway house inmate who was hit in the head by a television-wielding fellow inmate has died from his injuries. Robert Spanglo, 46, was charged Thursday with first-degree murder in connection with the death of Charles Bush,34. Spanglo is accused of flinging the TV at Bush's head at the Avalon Correctional Center on March 31. (Tulsa World, May 3, 2002)

The Villas (AKA: The Restitution Center), Greeley, Colorado
July 8, 2008 Greeley Tribune
In the wake of a report revealing numerous problems with the Weld County community corrections program, Intervention Inc. has taken over operations of the program now named Intervention Community Correction Services. With the new name also comes a new facility at the Weld County Jail. Jim Greco, program director for Intervention Inc., said that all of an estimated 100 residents have been relocated and that the transition went smoothly. The prior halfway house at 1750 6th Ave. is still owned by Avalon Correctional Services Inc., and Intervention Inc. does not own a facility in Weld County. As a result, Intervention Inc. will rent three new jail pods from the Weld County Sheriff's Office temporarily for its operation. Greco said while the facility is a jail, it is never locked and clients are free to come and go as they please until their 11 p.m. curfew.

June 25, 2008 Greeley Tribune
Residents of Greeley's halfway house, The Villa, will move to the jail Monday with Intervention Inc. taking control of the community corrections services. Kevin Strobel, chairman of the Weld County Board of Community Corrections, said Intervention Inc. was awarded the request for proposal on June 4 in light of a reports detailing several problems in the operation of The Villa including sexual liaisons in what became known as the "Boom-Boom Room," and a tunnel that held weapons and drug paraphernalia. Community Education Centers, Inc. of New Jersey entered an agreement in May with The Villa's owners Avalon Correctional Services Inc. of Oklahoma to provide services until the end of the fiscal year on July 1. Strobel said Intervention Inc. does not have a facility in Greeley, and will rent three new pods from the Weld County Sheriff's Office temporarily to operate. Clients under CEC's supervision are to be transferred Monday to Intervention Inc.'s supervision at the jail. While the facility will be housed at the jail, 1950 O St., Strobel said it will not be locked and will operate as a community corrections facility separate from the jail. In the coming year, it is expected that either Interventions or Weld County will build a facility for the program. The Villa -- also known as The Restitution Center at 1750 6th Ave. -- is still owned by Avalon. The CEC is suing Weld County for awarding the contract to Intervention Inc. Strobel said the Weld County Board of Community Corrections deems Interventions an appropriate management company, and he expects the transition to be safe. The changes come based on Weld corrections officials' March request for new operators to bid on running the program. A Colorado Public Safety Report on The Villa cited several violations such as: Unqualified staff members, staff members having sexual relations with inmates, falsified drug tests and a lack of sufficient security.

April 30, 2008 Greeley Tribune
Greeley’s halfway house The Villa may change operation managers soon. The Villa -- also known as The Restitution Center --currently owned by Avalon Correctional Services Inc. of Oklahoma, could be taken over by Community Education Centers, Inc. The company is considering a management agreement with Southern Corrections Systems, Inc. who own Avalon, said Tiffany Smith, vice president of marketing and communications for Avalon, in an e-mail interview. Kevin Strobel, chairman of the Weld County Board of Community Corrections, said CEC is currently negotiating with Avalon to assume operations of all of Avalon’s five community corrections programs in Colorado, including The Villa. He anticipates the deal to be completed in a matter of days. Weld county community corrections board deemed CEC is a proper and safe operator, Strobel said based on their current operations of six facilities in Colorado. “They are a tested and trusted community corrections operator,” said Strobel, who added CEC’s management of The Villa would last through the end of the fiscal year in June. At that time the board of community corrections will choose a management company based on the RFPs, or Request for Proposals. CEC is expected to submit a RFP, Strobel said. Weld County Commissioners voted today to approve the management contract once it has been signed and approved by SCS and CEC, said Strobel and Smith. Upon completion of the Agreement, CEC will be responsible for meeting terms and conditions of all existing contracts with the 19th Judicial District, including staffing and day to day operations. And all employees at SCS facilities in Colorado would become employees of Community Education Centers, Inc. at that time, said Smith in the e-mail. The change comes in the wake of a Weld County corrections officials March request for new operators to bid on running the program. The RFPs were based on a Colorado Public Safety Report which cited several violations such as: Unqualified staff members, staff members having sexual relations with inmates, falsified drug tests and a lack of sufficient security. While a recent audit of the facility showed the staff has improved in several areas, the Weld board still requested the bids for a new operator for a community corrections facility.

April 17, 2008 Greeley Tribune
In an attempt to improve upon the services provided by The Villa halfway house in Greeley, Weld County corrections officials Wednesday sent out a request for new operators to bid on running the program. The RFPs, or Requests for Proposals, were sent out Wednesday to operators who have shown an interest in taking over the community corrections facilities in Greeley. If another company other than The Villa wins the proposal bid, the new facility will likely be moved to a former nursing home on East 18th Street. The new proposals are due May 15. The Villa community corrections facility located in east Greeley came under close scrutiny last year when several violations of policy were reported. Although a recent audit of the facility came back showing the staff has improved in several areas, the Weld board is still requesting bids for a new operator for a community corrections facility. The Villa -- also known as The Restitution Center -- is owned by Avalon Correctional Services Inc. of Oklahoma. The Colorado state investigation earlier this year showed several violations, including: « Unqualified staff members, « staff members having sexual relations with inmates, « falsified drug tests, « and a lack of sufficient security. In the first report, 79 percent of the areas investigated were rated as either "needs improvement" or unsatisfactory." The Weld County Board of Community Corrections then hired a monitor -- retired chief probation officer Mike Reade -- who spent 60 days observing The Villa and checking its efforts to improve the facility. His final report will show improvement during the 60-day inspection, but it also will recommend a new director of the facility. That report will officially be released next week, after The Villa has had time to respond to Reade's findings. Villa Director Matt Brucklacher said Wednesday that despite what the report states about him, "my staff has done an outstanding job of correcting the problems." Those corrections, according to Reade, include changes in operations, security and drug testing. "The Villa was a broken program," Reade writes in his final report, "and over the past five months, management has been putting the pieces back together." According to Sharon Behrens, administrative coordinator for Weld Community Corrections, The Villa also will be able to bid on the new contract for community facilities. She said this is the first time other contractors other than The Villa's owners have been sought for bids. The Villa already has suffered one blow from the state Department of Corrections. The facility's contract for a 45-day drug and alcohol program has been terminated for next year, which involves about half of The Villa's population. Administrators already have started cutting staff to handle the decrease in inmates and programs. Inmates required to complete drug and alcohol programs will be sent to either Island Grove Treatment Center or facilities outside of Weld County.

February 12, 2008 Greeley Tribune
After a state commission's scathing investigation into The Villa, a Greeley restitution facility, the Weld County Community Corrections Board will ask for offers from other private corrections facilities to possibly move into town and provide competition for The Villa. The Villa, also known as The Restitution Center, was the subject of a recent investigation by the Colorado Department of Public Safety. In its report, the state agency revealed numerous problems, including sexual contact between employees and inmates, a hidden tunnel with drugs and paraphernalia, and easily falsified drug tests by the inmates. Public Defender Kevin Strobel, chairman of the Weld community corrections board, said Monday the board knew of some problems at The Villa but not the full extent that were uncovered by the state investigation. "We've talked to The Villa directors about several problems in the past," Strobel said Monday. "But because of the investigation, we've now appointed a monitor to oversee their efforts for the next 60 days." The monitor is Mike Reide, a retired chief probation officer with Jefferson County. After 60 days, he will report to the community board about The Villa's progress. "If they can get their act together by then," Strobel said, "we might not need to bring in another correction facility." But the board already has submitted a letter asking other private corrections companies to submit ideas for a new program that could replace or compete with The Villa. Strobel said the board has often tried to get the administration at The Villa to correct the turnover problem with employees. In its report, the state said, "... in the fiscal year 2006, The Villa employed security staff members for an average of 6.6 months. The comparable statewide average was 23.1 months." It also stated case managers stayed on the job at The Villa an average of 25.7 months, while the statewide average was 39.4 months. ABOUT THE VILLA -- The Villa, 1750 6th Ave. in Greeley, is a halfway house in which inmates are housed in the old University of Northern Colorado dormitories but allowed to work in the community during the day. The Villa also provides counseling and drug rehabilitation programs. It is owned by Avalon Correctional Services Inc., an Oklahoma-based company that owns 14 correctional facilities, including four in Colorado.

Union City Juvenile Center, Oklahoma
An attorney for three former inmates at an Oklahoma juvenile detention center filed a federal lawsuit Tuesday seeking more than $75,000 in damages from the correctional institute and five workers there.  The lawsuit alleges some of the workers provided the juveniles with gin, beer, malt liquor and cigars during a supervised weekend away from the Union City Juvenile Center, south of El Reno. It also claims a female worker had sex with a juvenile.  A 2002 report by the Office of Juvenile Affairs confirmed both claims, and Avalon Correctional Services Inc., which ran the center, fired the female worker that same year. Other involved employees were disciplined or fired.  (News Ok, July 16, 2004)