Arlington County Detention Center
Arlington, Virginia
Mar 12, 2022

Arlington Co. jail, sheriff, medical staff sued for $10 million following death of inmate

ARLINGTON, Va. (7News) - Plaintiffs representing Darryl Becton, an inmate who died under suspicious circumstances at Arlington County Detention Facility in 2020, have filed a $10 million wrongful death lawsuit against the jail, the Arlington County Sheriff, and several members of the jail's medical staff who are contracted through Corizon Health, Inc. According to an attorney representing Becton's family, this is the 7th inmate to die at the jail in recent years. All were people of color, an Arlington County NAACP spokesperson said, who attended a Friday press conference where the lawsuit was announced. The lawsuit, filed in Arlington County Circuit Court, alleges that Becton, 46, was left unattended and was untreated for serious medical conditions after being admitted to the jail on September 29, 2020. Becton was admitted for probation violation. The lawsuit says during his intake process, he informed jail officials he had an opioid addiction, had suffered from withdrawal in the past, and expected to experience withdrawal again being incarcerated. He also told jail officials he suffered from hypertension and cardiovascular disease. Two days later, according to jail medical records, in the early morning hours of October 1, Becton had a blood pressure reading of 191/102, the suit contends. "He had a [reading] of 191 over 102, It's called a hypertensive emergency, an attorney representing the Becton estate said. "He was just being casually monitored by the nursing staff. This did not have to occur. His conditions should have been treated immediately." Becton was pronounced dead later that day around 5 p.m., after a visiting counselor checked him in his cell where he was found nonresponsive. The details between the medical emergency the morning of Oct. 1 and Becton's time of death are inconsistent, an attorney said. "At 6:59 a.m. on October 1, 2020, an incomplete set of vitals was taken by an unidentified Corizon Health employee. Thereafter, all monitoring, observations, and treatment of Mr. Becton simply ceases. Mr. Becton's medical record contains a recorded encounter at 2:34 p.m., but that alleged encounter is highly dubious. "Defendant Antoine Smith - a licensed practical nurse and Corizon Health employee - has been criminally charged with falsifying patient records, upon information and belief, in connection with Mr. Becton," the lawsuit states.

Oct 26, 2021

Medical contractor deal terminated after Arlington County inmate's death
ARLINGTON, Va. (7News) - After an inmate died in October of 2020 while he was at the Arlington County Detention Facility, prosecutors have charged a man with a misdemeanor. More than a year later, on Oct. 12, 2021, the Office of the Commonwealth's Attorney announced that Antoine Smith was charged with falsifying a patient record. "The warrant was obtained in connection with the investigation into the death of (inmate) Mr. Darryl Becton at the Arlington County Detention Center in October 2020." Smith worked for Corizon Health. "After careful consideration, the county has entered into contract negotiations with a new provider. Services with a new provider are expected to begin November 15, 2021," said a spokesperson for the Arlington County Sheriff's Office. "Becton, 46, died on October 1, 2020, after he was found unconscious in his cell at the Arlington County Detention Facility," according to the Arlington County Sheriff's Office. "Mr. Becton was arrested on September 29, 2020, and charged with Probation Violation, awaiting his court hearing." The Arlington County NAACP released the following statement: "The Arlington Branch NAACP #7047 is aware that the Arlington County Sheriff's Office has "entered into negotiations with a new [medical] provider." Although the Sheriff's Office is seeking a new medical contractor, the issue remains that there have been six in-custody deaths in six years, as reported by the Arlington County Sheriff's Office. The Arlington Branch NAACP's position remains firm in seeking justice for those who have died while in the custody of the Arlington County Sheriff's Office. Ultimately, the Arlington County Sheriff, the Command Staff, and Sheriff's Office personnel are responsible for the health, care, and safety of the individuals in their custody - and the Arlington Branch NAACP will continue to seek justice to find All who are responsible, complicit, and or negligent in the deaths of those in-custody and hold them accountable." Sheriff Beth Arthur released the following statement: "The Arlington County Sheriff's Office is committed to providing the highest level of medical services to those in our custody and I take each individuals care very seriously. How we care for those remanded to our custody is a priority. We are committed to having a vendor that provides the level of medical service that reflects the high expectations of not only myself, but the Arlington community."

Oct 14, 2021

Charges Filed in Investigation of Man's Death While in County Jail

One year after an inmate died in the Arlington County jail, a man has been charged in connection with his death. For the last year, the Arlington County Police Department has been investigating the death of Darryl Becton, 46, while in custody of the county jail on Oct. 1, 2020. One year later to the day, a man named Antoine Smith appeared in Arlington County General District Court on charges related to the investigation, according to a press release from the Office of the Commonwealth's Attorney. Smith was charged with the misdemeanor of falsifying a patient record, according to the release. Police obtained a warrant for his arrest on Sept. 24. The Commonwealth's Attorney did not return requests for more information about who Smith is, who he works for and what records he falsified. "The Commonwealth may not discuss the details of an ongoing investigation and Professional Rule of Responsibility 3.6 prohibits public commentary regarding the details of a pending case," the release said. "A defendant is presumed innocent until proven guilty, and a charge is not evidence." What we do know is that Arlington County's jail contracts with correctional healthcare provider Corizon Health to provide medical care to inmates. Last year, the contract was extended to 2025. A D.C. area man who goes by the name Antoine Smith lists his occupation as a licensed practical nurse and his employer as Corizon Health, according to a LinkedIn profile. Corizon has been sued multiple times across the nation for inmate deaths allegedly connected to inadequate care. Assuming Smith is indeed employed by Corizon, this is not the first time a correctional nurse from Corizon has been charged with a crime involving an inmate in Arlington. In 2014, another nurse from Corizon was charged with misdemeanor sexual battery and found guilty in Arlington General District Court, in an incident that was not previously reported publicly. He appealed to the Circuit Court and a deal was reached between the inmate and the nurse that allowed him avoid a jail time, according to Maj. Susie Doyel, the then-spokeswoman for the Arlington County Sheriff's Office, which runs the jail. The news of the latest charges marks a step forward in the case, which police told ARLnow in August could soon be concluded. Last fall, Becton, who is Black, was being held on an alleged probation violation after being convicted in 2019 of a felony, "unauthorized use of a motor vehicle." On Oct. 1, 2020, a sheriff's deputy and an Arlington Department of Human Services caseworker found Becton unresponsive in his cell. Despite resuscitation efforts, Becton was pronounced dead 30 minutes later. Within a week, the Arlington branch of the NAACP wrote to the sheriff's office and the police department requesting an independent investigation. The same month, Sheriff Beth Arthur and then-Acting Chief of Police Andy Penn wrote a joint response. "The death of Mr. Becton is tragic and we can assure you that a thorough and comprehensive criminal investigation into this matter will be conducted by the ACPD, followed by a comprehensive administrative investigation by ASCO to determine if all applicable policies and procedures were followed surrounding Mr. Becton's incarceration," Arthur and Penn wrote. Between then and August, little information had surfaced in Becton's case. ARLnow learned from the medical examiner's office that his cause of death was ruled to be hypertensive cardiovascular disease - caused by sustained high blood pressure - complicated by opiate withdrawal, and the manner of his death was ruled to be natural. This case has been a top priority for the NAACP, as Becton was the fifth person - and the fourth Black man - to die in the facility between 2015 and 2020, per the Sheriff's and Police Chief's letter. Those numbers increased last week, when an inmate named Clyde Spencer became the sixth person, and the fifth Black man, to die in custody in six years. In the wake of his death, the NAACP again raised concerns about "delayed answers for Mr. Becton's family" and calling the pattern of deaths "unacceptable, unconscionable, and distressing." In response to yesterday's news about charges against Smith, Arlington NAACP President Julius "JD" Spain, Sr. said charges are not enough, as Becton's family still needs answers. "This is not justice for the NAACP," Spain tells ARLnow. "This is not justice for the family. We will continue to assure that justice is served." Smith is expected to return to court on Nov. 9 for a hearing. As for the review the NAACP requested, after ACPD concludes its investigation, the file will be sent to the Commonwealth's Attorney's Office for independent review, according to the joint letter. The Sheriff's Office, meanwhile, is investigating whether applicable policies and procedures were being followed.

March 1, 2006 DC Examiner
The cost of medical services for inmates in the Arlington County Detention Facility has gone up, staff turnover is high and service is lacking, according to an audit released this week by the Criminal Justice Institute. A 43 percent rise in operating costs was due to skyrocketing health care expenses, a higher influx of inmates with acute medical conditions and the rising prices of drugs prescribed for mental illness, said Susie Doyel, the facility's administrative director. Doyel said the report, which outlines a number of problems in the service provided by contractor Correctional Medical Services, is a positive thing for the facility. A number of criteria that were not specified in the contract with CMS led to inefficiencies and costly procedures. CMS's contract ends Oct. 31. In April, the detention facility plans to send out a request for new contracts that includes the majority of the auditor's recommended changes in operations, including allowing inmates to take drugs like Tylenol or antibiotics without the assistance of a nurse - freeing nurses for more pressing duties. But high turnover also contributed. Nurses were leaving, said the report, because of "high costs for parking, transportation issues and higher-paying positions in the vicinity with free parking."

Fairfax Connector
Fairfax, Virginia

July 9, 2008 Washington Post
Fares for the Fairfax Connector bus come in $1 at a time, and that's how they left, police said. There was an elaborate system to thwart bus-fare bandits. Somehow, police said, a night-shift worker found a way to open the fare boxes and make off with plastic bags full of $1 bills. A lot of $1 bills. Fairfax County officials said $200,000 to $300,000 was taken from Fairfax Connector cash boxes in the thefts, which started last year. Fairfax police put the total at $326,000. Thong Khoune Sisaath of Sterling, who cleaned and fueled buses at the Herndon depot and handled cash boxes, was arrested July 2 and charged with grand larceny and possession of burglary tools in the case, according to police and court documents. A Fairfax man was also arrested. An investigation is continuing, police said. The cash boxes on Fairfax Connector's 197 buses have electronic safeguards. The boxes are scanned before they are removed to provide a record of how much money the boxes hold. The locked boxes are placed in a vault, where the cash is put into containers. The containers are closed by a self-sealing mechanism and are collected the next day by an armored-car service, said Rollo Axton, Fairfax's chief of transit services. Police said Sisaath found a way around the security measures. "Anytime you get the human factor and greed, you have the possibility of somebody trying to steal," said Kathy Ichter, director of the Fairfax County Department of Transportation. Police said Sisaath would bypass the usual area where cash boxes were scanned and emptied. Instead, she would take the buses to another area at the Herndon depot and use a key to unlock the cash boxes. She would fill the bags with the money and drop the bags, along with the contents of her pockets, into her car, police said. "As she did this she looked around in a suspicious manner attempting to insure she was not observed," according to court documents. Fairfax officials said the county did not lose money because of a contract provision with the private firm that runs the buses guaranteeing that the county receives the amount recorded when the cash boxes are scanned. "The county will not end up absorbing any of the losses on this," said Mike Setzer, vice president of Veolia Transportation in Oak Brook, Ill. Fairfax transportation officials first noticed a problem last fall. The scanned totals from the cash boxes stopped matching the totals on the bank deposits. According to industry standards, the two figures should be within 1 percent of each other, Axton said. "We were getting anywhere from 20 to 30 percent on some days, and that obviously raised the red flag," Axton said. The installation of SmarTrip card readers, which allow cash-less travel, throughout the Fairfax Connector system starting last year made it hard to tell if the discrepancy was a problem with the new technology or a sign of theft, officials said. Audits were begun. On nights when supervisors were present, the cash discrepancy disappeared. When supervisors were not at the depot, money was missing, officials said. Many questions remain, Setzer said, among them: "who got the key and how they got the key and how the system allowed that to happen." A Veolia employee also was arrested in connection with the thefts, according to court documents and police. Carl Rich of Fairfax was arrested July 3 and charged with embezzlement, possession of burglary tools, and conspiracy to commit grand larceny. Setzer said he did not have information on Rich's status. "Some of the people who are involved in this are relatively low-ranking people who shouldn't have had access to any kind of key, so we're still a little puzzled as to how that happened," Setzer said. "Someone else had to help them get access to the key, whether that's our person or someone else." Sisaath worked for a subcontractor, Aramark, which provides staffing for prisons, jails, airports and other sensitive jobs. Sisaath no longer works for the firm, company spokeswoman Sarah Jarvis said. "The behavior you've described is unacceptable and is not tolerated by this company," Jarvis said.

Fairfax County Adult Detention Facility
Fairfax, Virginia

July 25, 2007 The Examiner
Fairfax County Sheriff Stan Barry accepted $1,000 in food for a campaign event from a company the county pays to feed its inmates – a contribution one state senator blasted as an attempt to “buy friendship” from the sheriff. Barry, a Democrat who is unopposed in the November election, denied any impropriety in accepting the donation from Aramark Corp. at a Fairfax City fundraiser on June 7. State Sen. Ken Cuccinelli, however, on Tuesday called the contribution a “cause for cynicism.” “They’re giving him money because their gravy train depends on his position to continue their food contract,” said Cuccinelli, R-Fairfax. “They’re just trying to buy friendship.” The Philadelphia-based company provides food, uniforms and other services to scores of institutions throughout the country, and won a two-year contract in July 2006 to feed inmates and staff of the Fairfax County Adult Detention Center. The Sheriff’s Office operates the facility. Exactly how much the county has paid to Aramark since the company started providing meals Sept. 1 was not available Tuesday. Based on estimates in the county’s budget, the company served 1.47 million meals in fiscal 2007, an average of 4,050 a day costing about $1 each. Aramark was the only company to bid on the jail food-service contract, according to Cathy Muse, director of the Department of Purchasing and Supply Management, which oversees the county’s contracting. The Sheriff’s Office reviewed the bid and recommended the county approve it, after which Muse signed off on the contract. Barry said he had no input in that process. “If I was overseeing the contract or [was] instrumental in who got the contract, then I can see where there would be conflict,” he said. “But I’m not involved in those negotiations at all.” He said the fundraiser took place before it was clear no opponents would emerge in the election. The food, he said, included Swedish meatballs, lunch meat and chicken wings. An Aramark spokeswoman said she was unable to find details of the donation by early Tuesday evening and otherwise declined comment.

Farmville Detention Center
Jan 11, 2020

Documents Show How Farmville, and Va Company, Profit From Detention Center

Immigration and Customs Enforcement, or ICE, sends immigrants from Virginia and D.C. who they allege are in the country illegally to a detention center in Farmville. Understanding the finances behind that facility begins at Farmville’s Town Hall. Although it’s the town of Farmville that holds the main contract with federal officials to house immigrants, it’s actually a private company that operates the facility. It owns the land and building, and subcontracts with the town. The company is called Immigration Centers of America, or ICA, and it’s owned by a realtor in Richmond. Farmville’s interim Town Manager, Scott Davis, says ICA prepares the monthly invoices, and Farmville sends them to the federal government. “Then ICE sends us the payment for the invoices that were sent,  we get a $1 a day per diem for however many number of detainees are there,” described Davis during a recent interview.  According to numbers provided by Davis, Farmville makes about $20,000 a month on this arrangement. Put into context, that’s about 2% of the town’s annual general fund averaged over the past nine years. But that’s just one piece of the financial puzzle. For instance, in one recent fiscal year ICA’s water bill was almost one-fifth of the town’s total water revenue. “There's real estate taxes, there's personal property taxes. They pay water and sewer,” added Davis. “They've created over probably 160 plus jobs in our community at federal wage level.” But all of that pales in comparison to what the private company ICA makes -- about $2 million a month. That’s federal taxpayers dollars, funnelled to a private company, through the town of Farmville. “Essentially (Farmville) kind of serves as a broker and then they take a kickback and then it's the company that reaps the large benefits,” explained Jesse Franzblau with the National Immigrant Justice Center. Sitting in Franzblau’s DC office we reviewed documents his organization obtained through a Freedom of Information Act Request. They confirm the arrangement described by Farmville officials. Franzblau says that what’s happening in Virginia is happening across the country -- local officials rubber-stamping facilities then taking a fee. It concerns him. “The mass immigration detention system is driven by profit,” said Franzblau. “People are suffering dramatically in detention, in a system where they shouldn't be.” Related Content: Five Questions Answered About Farmville's ICE Detention Facility. Lyle Boelens is an official with ICE. RADIOIQ sat down with him after a recent tour of the facility in Farmville. When asked whether the current structure incentivizes holding more people he conceded that more detainees does mean more revenue coming in. However, he says detainment decisions are not influenced by that. “We make detention decisions based upon the  the individual being a flight risk or a threat to the public safety,” said Boelens. Still, Franzblau and other advocates say private detention facilities should be banned. That’s what the California state legislature recently did, as has Illinois. Franzblau says state or local lawmakers in Virginia could do the same.  “They could say we're out and they could say we have had enough of this. This has caused too much harm to people here,” he said. Farmville’s town manager says he doesn’t know of any plans to end or alter the arrangement with ICE and ICA. Meanwhile, ICA is currently pursuing a contract to build another facility in Maryland. This report, provided by Virginia Public Radio, was made possible with support from the Virginia Education Association.

Fluvanna Correctional Center for Women, Virginia
Nov 29, 2015
Capitated compensation – a contract model in which private medical companies were paid based on prison population – may have been at the root of medical neglect that allegedly violated inmates’ 8th amendment rights at the Fluvanna Correctional Center for Women (FCCW), according to a lawsuit filed in U.S. District Court in Charlottesville. The class action lawsuit by inmates at the Fluvanna Correctional Center for Women against the Virginia Department of Corrections has brought attention to inadequate medical care at FCCW, and to the controversial compensation method. The Virginia Department of Corrections (VDOC) has chosen, since 2011, to use capitated compensation to pay the private contractors who provide medical services to its prisoners. Under this method, the contractor is paid a set amount per inmate housed in the facility. The less money the private contractor spends on the provision of medical services, the greater the profit seen by the contractor - an inherent inducement to the contractor to minimize services provided and medications given in order to decrease costs, and increase profits, according to the lawsuit. “Corizon,” a Tennessee-based company that provides medical services to jails and prisons, earned $1.4 billion in 2014 from contracts in 27 states, but has recently suffered a ‘negative outlook’ rating from Moody’s Investors Service because of multiple lawsuits and lost contracts, according to an article by David Royse published in Modern Healthcare. Corizon won a five-year contract to provide health care services at the FCCW in 2013. FCCW houses approximately 1,200 inmates, and has a medical building that includes an infirmary, and dental and mental health care offices. FCCW is considered the Virginia women’s prison best able to provide health services, and female inmates with serious and chronic health conditions are transferred to FCCW from other prisons across the Commonwealth. Despite its reputation as the state’s best women’s prison for inmates with health concerns, some inmates at FCCW have died, and others suffered great pain and serious complications including amputations, kidney and liver failure, and blindness because of negligent health care, according to the lawsuit. Documented incidents supporting the inmates’ claims of medical neglect include a known diabetic who entered the infirmary with symptoms of dangerously high blood glucose levels who laid untreated on a cot for several hours until she lost consciousness and died. Another inmate diagnosed with colorectal cancer was prescribed chemotherapy by a UVA oncologist in November 2013; chemotherapy was not begun until July of 2014 (this inmate died in March 2015.) U.S. District Court Judge Norman K. Moon, whose final ruling on the settlement is expected in December 2015, wrote in a Memorandum Opinion released in November 2014 that, “Plaintiffs continue to experience the adverse effects of health problems they already had at the time this action was filed, as well as new health concerns in connection with which they remain subject to the seriously deficient medical care that is provided by FCCW on a systemic basis.” “...with full awareness ... that the medical care at FCCW was already sub-standard on a systemic basis, the VDOC chose Corizon to serve as its contractor for the May 1, 2013, contract, based on a bid that was $17 million lower than the bid of Armor, the VDOC’s incumbent provider,” wrote Moon. “Bruce Teal, Armor’s Chief Executive Officer, testified that, based on its incumbent status, Armor was well aware of the costs of providing care at FCCW facilities, and that ‘under no circumstances’ could Armor have agreed to serve as the VDOC’s medical care provider under the new contract for the amount bid by Corizon.” “Given these facts,” wrote Moon, “a reasonable fact-finder could conclude that a reduced level of medical care was the virtually inevitable result of the VDOC’s decision to select Corizon as its contractor,” wrote Moon. “I conclude that, based upon the evidence before me, a fact-finder could reasonably determine that the VDOC is deliberately indifferent to the serious medical needs of the Plaintiffs and the entire class of women residing at FCCW.” The lawsuit was brought on behalf of the inmates by the Legal Aid Justice Center, Wiley Rein LLP of Washington, D.C., and the Washington Lawyers Committee for Civil Rights and Urban Affairs. “Our goal,” said Legal Aid Justice Center Attorney Brenda Castaneda, “is to get that final order in there so that if they are not complying with the terms of the settlement we can go back to the judge who can find them in contempt. The doctor who is going to monitor the settlement is going to investigate and come up with suggestions for change.” Castaneda felt the ability to find the VDOC in contempt if conditions do not improve was integral to the success of the suit. “Until that happens I feel like real changes are not going to be made,” she said. “The DOC has worked with us to reach a settlement,” said Castaneda. “They agreed that things should change and they worked with us to create a settlement that everyone could sign and agree to. I just hope they comply with the things that they have agreed to do.” “After suffering years of pain and neglect due to inadequate medical care,” said Castaneda, “these women will finally receive justice through a major overhaul of the medical services provided at the Fluvanna prison.” Assistant Attorney General Michael J. Parsons, who represented the VDOC for the Attorney General’s Office, could not be reached for comment on this case; VDOC Director of Communications Lisa V. Kinney said that the VDOC “doesn’t discuss pending litigation.”

Jul 13, 2014

It’s up to a federal judge to decide whether to delay a trial against the Fluvanna Correctional Center for Women over health care while the co-defendant company hired to run the infirmary cancels its contract with the state. The five inmates who filed the case against the facility in Troy two years ago want a judge to order an injunction demanding quality health care from both the prison and the new contractor hired to provide medical treatment. Lawyers for the Brentwood, Tennessee-based Corizon Health argue in court records that the lawsuit should be put on hold to give the replacement health care contractor time to step in as defendants in the lawsuit. Corizon should no longer be a part of the case now that it plans to cancel its contract with the state’s prison system by the end of September, defense attorneys argue. A jury trial is set for Dec. 1 in Charlottesville. Messages left with defense attorneys at McGuire Woods, of Tysons Corner, were not returned Wednesday. But lawyers representing the inmates have blasted both Corizon’s request for a delay and its impending contract cancelation as the latest attempt to disrupt the case by placing another company in the defendant’s slot. “It’s been a game of musical chairs,” said inmate attorney Brenda Castañeda, of the Charlottesville-based Legal Aid Justice Center. Corizon is the second health-care provider to contract with the Virginia Department of Corrections since the lawsuit was filed July 24, 2012. Stepping in to take Corizon’s place on Oct. 1 is Miami-based Armor Correctional Health Services. Armor ran the prison’s infirmary when the suit was filed and was the original contractor listed as a co-defendant. It was dismissed as the co-defendant in October. The lawsuit alleges that inmates have suffered and died because prison medical staff provided substandard care and failed to follow the treatments sometimes prescribed by doctors at the University of Virginia Medical Center. Department of Corrections spokesman Larry Traylor directed questions about why the contract is being canceled to Corizon, which is speaking through its attorneys.

Jun 11, 2014

A lawsuit alleging that medical neglect led to suffering and death at the women’s prison in Fluvanna is poised to head to trial at the end of this year, but the state’s prison health care provider, a defendant in the suit, has thrown a wrench in the works. Tennessee-based Corizon Health, Inc. gave notice June 2 that it plans to back out of its year-old contract with the Virginia Department of Corrections (DOC), and has filed a motion in U.S. District Court in Charlottesville to halt the suit. The DOC said in a press release that it’s now searching for a provider to replace Corizon when the company terminates its contract in early October, 120 days after giving notice. Corizon took over providing health care for Virginia inmates in May of 2013, shortly after the end date of the contract with the previous provider, Armor Correctional Health Services. Both companies and the DOC are plaintiffs in the lawsuit, brought by Charlottesville’s Legal Aid Justice Center (LAJC) on behalf of inmates at the Fluvanna Correctional Center for Women, that alleges consistent neglect of serious medical conditions like diabetes, blood clots, and cancer. Corizon was added to the suit last summer. Plaintiffs in the suit say contractor-employed prison medical staff regularly ignored or denied prisoners’ requests for treatment and medication. More than once, the suit says, negligence resulted in an inmate’s death. Starting in 2011, one prisoner allegedly complained for a year of intense abdominal pain and rectal bleeding, but was told she was “fine,” according to the suit. When she was finally referred to a hospital, doctors determined she had Stage IV abdominal cancer. Weeks later, she was dead. It’s not clear why Corizon is scrapping its $76.5 million deal with the state, said the LAJC’s Brenda Castaneda. The company underbid the previous contract with Armor by about $17 million, something that worried the LAJC at the time. “It’s possible they decided they couldn’t provide care for the amount they bid,” she said. The company’s termination letter to the state indicates cost was a factor in ending its deal. “While Corizon and the DOC have worked diligently to resolve concerns in a number of areas since the implementation of the Contract, we have not made adequate progress regarding the provision of Utilization Management services”—an industry term for the evaluation of cases to determine whether they’ll be covered by a health care plan—“and use of an alternative, more cost effective provider than Virginia Commonwealth University Health System,” Corizon CEO Woodrow A. Myers, Jr. wrote. But Corizon may not be out of the picture altogether. The letter goes on to say that if the company and the DOC can “come to a mutual agreement regarding these issues” before October 2, Corizon would rescind its termination notice. And nothing would stop Corizon from coming back to the table with a higher dollar number in an attempt to replace itself, said Castaneda. Another possible contender, she said, is Armor, the same contractor that Corizon underbid last year. All the turnover isn’t good for health care in the prison system, she said. DOC said in its press release that “Corizon employees working in DOC facilities may remain in place following the transition to a new provider if they so choose,” but Castaneda said the recent transitions she’s seen have not been smooth. Providers have had to reapply for their jobs, ended up with less pay, and lost their vacation days. There was new paperwork to fill out, and day-to-day operations slowed. When Corizon took over last year, “they got really behind on scheduling care visits,” Castaneda said. “It took them a long time to get doctors in.” As for the motion to stay, “it’s definitely interesting timing,” she said. The trial was scheduled for December 1, and the parties are wrapping up the discovery phase. But Corizon is now asking for a stay, claiming any future contractor will be a necessary party in the suit, since the plaintiffs are seeking “complete relief”—essentially, a court order saying providers have to give better care. “Corizon is proud of the quality care its medical professionals provide to inmates in the Virginia Department of Corrections, and continues working in partnership with the DOC to meet patient needs,” Corizon spokesperson Susan Morgenstern said in an e-mail. “Contract discussions with the DOC are not related to the legal matter you referenced.” Regardless of which company gets tapped to replace Corizon, it’s up to the state to provide adequate care for the people it imprisons, said Castaneda—that’s what the suit is all about. “No matter who you get in…it’s the state that’s responsible for monitoring the contractor and making sure the care is sufficient,” she said. “The state can’t just bid out to the lowest bidder and say ‘We paid for it.’”

Genesis Treatment Center
Newport News, Virginia
Correctional Services Corporation
May 14, 2005 Daily Press
The former operations director of a treatment center for troubled youth has filed suit against the companies that ran the now-defunct center, alleging he was discriminated against because of his race and fired in retaliation for his complaints. In the suit, filed last week in Newport News Circuit Court, James E. Graves of Hampton seeks $1.85 million in lost wages and damages as a result of losing his job at the Genesis Treatment Center. The suit names center operator Youth Services International and parent company Correctional Services Corp. as well as the center's former facility administrator as defendants. The treatment center, which operated out of the old Newport News General Hospital on Marshall Avenue, treated boys and young men between the ages of 12 and 21 for severe emotional disorders and sexual delinquency. It closed in October 2003 because of financial problems, although former employees questioned whether internal problems there had something to do with it. At the time the center closed, at least five employees had reportedly filed discrimination complaints with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. At least one of those complaints was settled, Graves said, while the EEOC gave him the green light to sue.

October 10, 2003
A treatment center for troubled youths will close Friday, about two years after community activists protested the center's opening in Newport News' East End.  The Genesis Treatment Center treats boys and young men between the ages of 12 and 21 for severe emotional disorders and sexual delinquency.  "It was one of those kind of programs that we didn't need in the community," said activist Lawrence Atkins.  The 51-bed center had 16 patients when officials notified the state's mental health agency of the pending closing. A state spokeswoman said two patients remained at the center Wednesday. Others were transferred elsewhere.  Youth Services International, a subsidiary of Florida-based Correctional Services Corp., operates the center. The company runs 19 treatment centers nationwide, treating about 2,500 youths.  "The reason for closing is purely an economic issue," said senior vice president Woodie Harper.  Harper said Genesis struggled to increase the number of patients it served in the past nine to 10 months, mirroring a widespread industry trend.  In August, president James Slattery attributed a $5.6-million drop in second quarter profits compared to the previous year to "lower than expected occupancy rates in our juvenile division due to systemwide budget cuts."  Some former employees wonder whether internal problems at Genesis also contributed to its closing.  State inspectors investigated two incidents - one in December and one in January - of Genesis staff members improperly restraining patients. One patient suffered a broken arm and another a broken nose. In response, the center fired two employees and gave other employees more training.  Also, at least five to seven former employees have filed discrimination complaints with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, according to several people who filed complaints.  Harper said company investigations are under way. He declined to say more. Julia Cudjoe, former special education coordinator at Genesis, attributes the center's low occupancy rate to high turnover among employees. This raised questions about the center's quality of care at social services departments making patient referrals.  (Daily Press)

April 21, 2003
State inspectors said two patients suffered broken bones at a treatment center for young men with severe emotional disorders after they were improperly restrained by staff members.  One patient at the 51-bed Genesis Treatment Center suffered a broken arm, the other a broken nose.  The center has fired the two staff members responsible and agreed to offer more training and draft new policies for staff.  But inspectors are also include alleged sexual misconduct between a staff member and a patient, staff members allegedly assaulting patients, and patients not receiving proper care.  A patient's mother has complained of insults, poor food quality and excessive force.  Youth Services International operates the treatment center for young men between the ages of 12 and 21 in the former Newport News General Hospital.  (AP)

Grayson County Prison
GEO Group
March 2, 2005 Galax Gazette
A state senator who is pushing for a state prison in Grayson County accepted gifts totaling $3,762 in 2004 from one of three companies that have submitted proposals to build the facility. Kellogg, Brown & Root Inc. is a subsidiary of Halliburton. KBR, Commonwealth Corrections Solutions, a consortium based in Fairfax and the Florida-based GEO Group have submitted proposals to build the prison under the state's Public-Private Education Facilities and Infrastructure Act. State Sen. William C. Wampler Jr., R-Bristol, reported gifts from 10 sources. KBR is the only prison firm to give a gift to Wampler. Wampler is the only legislator in the state to receive a donation of any kind from KBR in 2004. Wampler represents the 40th District, which includes the western part of Grayson, Bristol, Lee County, Norton, Scott County, part of Smyth County, Washington County and part of Wise County. He did not respond to phone calls and an e-mail request for comment made during more than a week's time.

Hampton Roads Regional Jail
Correct Care Solutions
Nov 25, 2018
Jail and Medical Provider Settle Wrongful Death Lawsuit
PORTSMOUTH, Va. (AP) — A jail in Virginia and its medical provider have agreed to pay $625,000 to settle a wrongful-death lawsuit. The Daily Press reported Wednesday that 60-year-old Henry Clay Stewart Jr. was being held at the Hampton Roads Regional Jail on a probation violation stemming from a shoplifting charge in 2016, when he died from bleeding from a perforated stomach ulcer. His family's lawsuit alleged that "his pleas for urgent medical care were either ignored or the care provided to him . did not address his life-threatening medical needs." The lawsuit was filed in 2017 in U.S. District Court in Norfolk. Settlement records show that Correct Care Solutions paid $525,000. The jail paid the other $100,000. The jail and medical provider did not admit liability for Stewart's death.

Sep 15, 2017
Court records: Jail puts potential blame for inmate death on medical provider
NORFOLK, Va. (WAVY) – In a recent court filing, Hampton Roads Regional Jail denies any liability or negligence in the death of inmate Henry Clay Stewart. Stewart’s family is suing the jail for $40 million dollars in his death. They claim in their suit that jail and medical staff ignored Stewart’s multiple pleas and filings for help. In a letter dated July 18 sent to the medical provider, Correct Care Solutions, from Lind Bryant, Assistant Superintendent of the jail, Bryant writes, “Consider this also a demand to assume and defend this lawsuit, including any and all expenses, legal and otherwise.” The letter is part of the response the jail filed to the Stewart family lawsuit. In its response, the jail alleges that should a judge find negligence, CCS should be on the hook for any settlement payments. Writing that the jails, “Agents neither mistreated nor ignored Mr. Stewart during his incarceration.” and that “at no time did CCS, its physicians, nurses, or healthcare professionals advise HRRJA, its administrators, or jail officers that Mr. Stewart was suffering from a life threatening condition or required medical intervention.” In its filing, the jail does not outwardly blame CCS in Stewart’s death, but says rather “based upon claims made by the plaintiff, CCS Breached the agreement by failing to provide appropriate clinically necessary medical services.” If a judge does find that CCS staff acted with negligence, HRRJ writes in its court filing that the medical provider would then be in breach of its contract with the jail. CCS filed a response to the jail’s claims. Though it does not elaborate, the medical provider denies the jail’s allegation that jail staff were never informed Mr. Stewart was suffering form a life threatening condition. CCS also writes that at the time of the filing it “lacks sufficient knowledge or information to form a belief about the truth of the allegations.” In its response, the medical company denies that HRRJ is entitled to the relief requested under the claim, and asks the judge to dismiss it

Feb 11, 2017
Feds probing ex-Norfolk Sheriff Bob McCabe's ties to jail contractor. What is Correct Care Solutions?
Federal investigators are probing the relationship between former Norfolk Sheriff Bob McCabe’s office and Correct Care Solutions, the jail’s medical contractor since 2004. But what is Correct Care Solutions? Gerald “Jerry” Boyle founded the company in 2003, after previously heading a similar business named Prison Health Services. CCS employs nearly 11,000 people in 38 states and Australia, according to the Nashville, Tenn.-based company’s website. It provides medical and behavioral health services for nearly 250,000 patients at local, state and federal facilities, including jails, prisons, hospitals and civil commitment centers. The bulk of those employees – more than 6,000 – work at 333 detention facilities like the Norfolk City Jail. It handles medical services for four of six jails in South Hampton Roads. The city’s Sheriff’s Office was required last year to pay the company a base amount of about $3.8 million, according to a copy of the contract obtained by The Virginian-Pilot. The contract was signed in December 2010 and was for up to six years. It should have ended Dec. 16, but the office does not appear to have signed any new contracts with CCS or any other medical provider. An attorney for the Sheriff’s Office declined to comment on the status of the contract, referring questions to a spokeswoman who she said was out of the office until next week. The Sheriff’s Office has contracted with CCS since June 2004, when then-Sheriff McCabe signed his first six-year deal with the company. That contract called for a base compensation of just over $3 million in the first year. The latest contract, signed in 2010, saw price increases after the first, second and fourth years. Before CCS, the Sheriff’s Office contracted with Boyle’s former company. The Chesapeake and Portsmouth sheriff’s offices also contract with CCS, as does the Hampton Roads Regional Jail. The Virginia Beach sheriff contracted with the company until May 2015, when he signed a three-year contract with NaphCare Inc. of Birmingham, Ala. Western Tidewater Regional Jail does not contract with an outside company for medical services, choosing to hire staff directly. Federal prosecutors secured two grand jury subpoenas last month, seeking documents relating to the Sheriff Office’s and CCS. The subpoenas were served months after McCabe’s name surfaced in a public corruption case. One subpoena was issued to the Sheriff’s Office on Jan. 18; the other went to the city of Norfolk on Jan. 27. The records requested must be turned over to a federal grand jury, which meets Feb. 22. Among other things, the subpoenas seek records of payments or items of value from CCS to McCabe and other Sheriff’s Office employees. They reference gifts, airline travel, hotel expenses, professional and college sporting events, fishing charters, auto racing schools, concerts, campaign contributions and use of condominiums in Nashville. Calls to McCabe – who has previously denied any wrongdoing – were not returned. Spokespeople for the Sheriff’s Office and CCS declined to comment on the investigation. McCabe, the sheriff since 1994, announced in late December that he was stepping down effective Feb. 1 after previously announcing that he would seek re-election. McCabe’s former second in command, Joseph Baron, was sworn in last week as interim sheriff. Over the years, CCS has been the target of at least 35 federal lawsuits in Virginia. Judges dismissed most of the cases, but eight are pending. One of the pending lawsuits names McCabe as a co-defendant. It involves an inmate of the Hampton Roads Regional Jail, which started contracting with Correct Care in December 2015. McCabe headed the regional jail on an interim basis for about four months last year before resigning toward the end of December.

Apr 10, 2016
Inspector general report says multilevel failures led to Va. man's death in jail
The doctors and nurses responsible for providing health care to inmates at the Hampton Roads Regional Jail failed to properly assess Jamycheal Mitchell before he died of “wasting syndrome” in his feces-smeared cell last August. That’s one of the conclusions reached by the Office of the State Inspector General in a report released Tuesday that attempts to explain how a 24-year-old mentally ill man accused of stealing $5 worth of snacks from a Portsmouth convenience store died behind bars. Mitchell was supposed to be treated for his mental illness at Eastern State Hospital near Williamsburg, but because of a series of clerical errors, he was kept in a cell at Hampton Roads Regional Jail for 101 days. While there, he lost 46 pounds and refused every opportunity he had to shower and recreate with other inmates, jail officials said. His leg also became severely swollen with fluid, but the jail reports for June 15 provided to the inspector general’s office indicated that no action was taken by health care professionals. He was taken to a clinic 15 days later and appeared “disheveled, psychotic and uncooperative.” The report notes that the records provided by NaphCare, the company that contracted with the jail to provide medical and mental health care services, were “incomplete and inconsistent.” Also, patients were expected to “put in sick call requests” on their own. “As the individual was thought to lack capacity to assist an attorney in his own defense, expectations that the individual would have the ability to seek out medical treatment independently while acutely symptomatic seems unreasonable and likely to fail,” according to the inspector general’s report. Even though NaphCare has been replaced by a new contractor, “a change in provider offers limited promise of improvement in care or documentation in the absence of a change in oversight practices.” “Review of NaphCare records raised significant concerns regarding the quality of assessment, care, follow-up and documentation,” the report says. “It is those professionals trained and licensed to provide clinical care who have a duty to provide that care, and the agency that contracts with the provider is responsible for ensuring that care is provided.” Still, the review didn’t fully delve into the medical care Mitchell should have received at the jail. The report said select information “was reviewed to identify additional areas for future review.” NaphCare has not returned several calls for comment in recent weeks. Lt. Col. Eugene Taylor III, an assistant superintendent of the jail, said last week that no policies or procedures had changed since Mitchell’s death because an internal investigation found no wrongdoing on the part of jail employees. Taylor said the decision not to renew the contract with NaphCare when it expired in December did not have to do with Mitchell’s death. The inspector general report detailed a series of shortcomings that went beyond the failings of medical staff. The report found fault with mental health providers on the state and local levels as well. The recent Department of Behavioral Health and Developmental Services audit of how the state handled Mitchell’s death doesn’t effectively address systemic problems, and a risk of recurrence remains, the inspector general’s report says. Mark Krudys, an attorney representing Mitchell’s family, said the report “details multiple and extreme failures by those charged with caring for Jamycheal. It also notes broader systemic failures across multiple agencies that affected Jamycheal and others suffering from mental illness.” G. Douglas Bevelacqua, a former inspector general who investigated mental health services, said both reports leave Virginians with unanswered questions. “Regrettably, after reading the OSIG Critical Incident Report and the DBHDS Investigative Report, I cannot answer the basic question of how did corrections staff and mental health workers allow Mitchell to waste away in plain sight for 3½ months,” Bevelacqua said. Pressure had been building for the release of the report in the past few weeks. In a news release issued Tuesday, State Inspector General June W. Jennings defended the length of time it took to complete the report. “We took the time necessary to ensure that this report addressed the issues we have the authority to investigate,” Jennings said in the statement. “It is our belief that the individual in question, and all those who suffer with mental illness and encounter the justice system, are deserving of the in-depth review conducted by our office.” Several weeks ago, Bevelacqua and Pete Earley, a former Washington Post reporter and prominent mental health author, questioned why the report still hadn’t been released seven months after Mitchell’s death. Last week, four advocacy organizations, including the National Alliance on Mental Illness of Virginia and the Portsmouth NAACP, sent a letter to Gov. Terry McAuliffe urging him to force the inspector general’s office to immediately release the results of its investigation. McAuliffe said he would not interfere with the investigation and that he would let it run its course. The review involved the Department of Behavioral Health and Developmental Services, Eastern State Hospital, Hampton Roads Regional Jail, the Portsmouth Department of Behavioral Healthcare Services, Portsmouth General District Court, NaphCare Inc. and Bon Secours Maryview Medical Center. “We are glad that the OSIG has finally, almost eight months after the tragic and unnecessary death of Jamycheal Mitchell, released their investigation report,” said Mira Signer, executive director of the National Alliance on Mental Illness of Virginia. “We look forward to reviewing it, and we truly hope that it provides useful information in the ongoing quest for accountability and system transformation in Virginia.”

June 20, 2004
Three inmates at Hampton Roads Regional Jail in Portsmouth who suffer from mental illnesses say the jail's medical staff failed to prescribe drugs that effectively treat their conditions.  For months they were wracked with feelings of hopelessness, anxiety, sleeplessness and delusional thoughts, they say. Sometimes they even wanted to harm themselves.  The men didn't get the medicine they requested until the end of May, after repeated calls to the press and to an advocacy group for the mentally ill. Since then, they say they're feeling better.  Hampton Roads Regional Jail holds about 1,060 inmates from Hampton, Newport News, Norfolk and Portsmouth. Of those, about 260 inmates are treated for mental illness by Prison Health Services, Inc., a private company that provides health care to inmates in 400 jails and prisons in 35 states. The quality of medical care for mentally ill inmates treated by private companies has been the subject of investigations and lawsuits throughout the country in recent years. In Virginia, officials are examining the quality of mental health care at jails and prisons to see if mentally ill inmates are receiving the proper medications. The issue boils down to this: Mental health advocates say these private companies often care more about their bottom lines than about the well-being of inmates. They say these companies are reluctant to prescribe expensive drugs, even if they provide the most effective treatment.  Prison health care companies typically devise their own pre-approved lists of drugs that often don't include more expensive, proven drugs, said Valerie Marsh, director of the Alliance. They can prescribe drugs not on the list, Phelps said, but they may be reluctant to do it.  (

King Pharmaceuticals Inc.
Prison Health Services
August 2, 2004
The top contributor to Attorney General Jerry W. Kilgore’s gubernatorial campaign is a retired Tennessee millionaire whose former pharmaceutical company is under federal investigation over how it set prices on drugs for government health programs.  John M. Gregory, of Bristol, Tenn., has contributed $325,000 to Kilgore through personal donations and gifts from an investment company he owns.  The reason for Gregory’s generosity toward Kilgore is unclear, but the businessman has a history of giving to Republicans, particularly those who have publicly identified themselves as conservative Christians.  Gregory has credited his own religious conversion for his success in starting King Pharmaceuticals Inc. The company thrived until last year, when the Securities and Exchange Commission and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services notified the firm that officials are looking into whether King followed federal rules requiring it to offer its cheapest prices on drugs for the government-operated Medicaid insurance program.  Gregory also is being sued in federal court by investors who accuse him and other former King executives of artificially inflating sales to enrich themselves, a scheme those stockholders say has cost them millions of dollars. King officials notified their investors that the SEC is looking at rebates on Altace that King gave to Prison Health Services, a Tennessee company that provides health care to prison and jail inmates.  A spokesman for Prison Health Services said he knew nothing about the investigation. He said the company’s Virginia clients include the Virginia Department of Corrections, the Hampton Roads Regional Jail and the Portsmouth city jail. A contract with the Norfolk city jail ended last month.  DOC officials said the agency began doing business with the health company in February 2001, long after Kilgore had left his previous position as the state’s secretary of public safety. The health company provides medical and dental services at prison clinics. Officials estimated the annual contract at $33 million.  (The Virginian-Pilot)

Lawrenceville Correctional Center
Lawrenceville, Virginia
GEO Group (formerly run by CCA)
Nov 2, 2022

Senator Joe Morrissey: 'Perhaps I was wrong' to allow private management of state prison. An unexpected call into the newsroom on Oct.14, led CBS 6 Problem Solver Investigator Melissa Hipolit to have a one-on-one conversation with an inmate inside the Lawrenceville Correctional Center.

BRUNSWICK COUNTY, Va. — An unexpected call into the newsroom on Oct.14, led CBS 6 Problem Solver Investigator Melissa Hipolit to have a one-on-one conversation with an inmate inside the Lawrenceville Correctional Center.

Lawrenceville is Virginia's only privately-run prison, and it was the subject of a recent CBS 6 investigation after the local sheriff, Brian Roberts, raised a number of concerns about the facility. Those concerns included inmates escaping their cells and getting on the roof, to drug overdose calls turning into hazmat situations. Roberts said he wanted the prison to stay open, but he wanted to see changes. "Most perfect world they would turn it back into a state-run facility," Roberts said. "Second most perfect world, the state hold GEO accountable, or they figure out their contract to do better, whether that is an accountability do better, or change companies do better, I don't know what that is." During our original story, CBS 6 reported that the company that runs the prison, The GEO Group, told the state on Aug. 23 that it was working to shore up security at the prison by increasing employee wages and restricting movement of inmates. According to the inmate who called us, that led to a lockdown and then a modified lockdown that lasted at least until we spoke with him on the Oct. 14. "We can come out in the POD, use the phone, take a shower, use the kiosk that is pretty much it," the inmate said. "We don't leave the building, there is just nothing else." "I haven't been outside and had any fresh air in six weeks, and they're not telling us anything," he added. He also said the prison stopped allowing inmates to take classes. "I'm normally in electric class over here," he said. And, he argued that management was punishing prisoners for the wrongdoing of staff, who he said were bringing cellphones and drugs into the prison. "We're not making this stuff in the kitchen, this ain't the inmates doing this. There was no visitation during COVID, and that's when the overdoses went crazy. The problem is with the staff here," the inmates said. To his point, CBS 6 filed a public records request with the Virginia Department of Corrections and found out Lawrenceville had the most cell phones or parts of cell phones found inside over the last three years in the entire prison system. In fact, the number increased 88% at Lawrenceville between 2020 and 2021. It also had the highest number of suspected and confirmed overdoses in 2022, accounting for 28% of suspected and confirmed overdoses in the state prison system this year. "And so they're instead punishing the inmates for the staff's issues?" Melissa Hipolit asked the inmate. "Absolutely, we pay for everything," he replied. "They have this idea of corporal punishment, that if one person on that entire compound does something wrong, we all have to pay for it." "Do you think that's fair?" Hipolit asked. "Absolutely not," he replied. We asked State Senator Joe Morrissey to listen to the recorded phone call after viewing our investigation. In 2021, he was one of the lawmakers who voted against a proposal that would have returned the management of Lawrenceville to the state. "I challenged at the time, will things get better if the prison is taken over by DOC? And, I was wrong, and perhaps things will get better," Morrissey said. "I can assure you if I made the mistake before and allowed it to continue operating as a private prison but the health of the inmates got worse or didn't improve, that I will correct that mistake going forward." Morrissey said it was counterproductive to the rehabilitation of the inmates to prevent them from getting exercise outside and taking classes, adding it may be time for the General Assembly to take action. "There is a growing feeling that we need to do something as a General Assembly to correct this problem," Morrissey said.  "Based on the continued condition of Lawrenceville, I'm thinking the General Assembly should review this to determine if we need, as a policy matter, to decide we're no longer going to allow private management of prisons in Virginia." Three days after we spoke with the inmate, a spokesperson for GEO Group, Chris Ferreira, said they began to transition back to normal operations, including limited recreational time and visits to the dining hall. He said they are hopeful to resume educational and vocational programs as well as in person visitations soon. As part of his statement he said: "We value the enduring partnership we have with the Commonwealth of Virginia, and we share the same goal of providing a safe, secure, and humane environment for inmates, staff, and visitors at Lawrenceville. We will continue working with the Virginia DOC as we manage the contraband challenges that many correctional facilities across the country are also currently facing.”

Oct 14, 2022

Lawrenceville Correctional lockdown renews private prison concerns in Virginia: ‘The conditions are unacceptable’

RICHMOND, Va. (WRIC) — Lawrenceville Correctional Center has been under lockdown for more than a month and there is no end in sight. Concerns over conditions are adding fuel to a previously failed push to end Virginia’s only private prison contract. Incarcerated people and their loved ones say the lockdown started at the end of August in response to a string of overdoses and at least one death, which the state is still actively investigating. Terra Stephens, who has a family member serving at Lawrenceville, said they have been barred from in-person and video visits for more than a month. She said the facility has also stopped religious services and outdoor time. Commissary purchases have been limited as well. “Whoever is privately running this prison has no sense of humanity,” Stephens said. “The incarcerated, they aren’t cattle. They are people and the point of the prison is to reform behavior. How could you reform behavior in those types of conditions?” Quadaire Patterson, who is currently incarcerated, said the environment is growing more hostile and tense. He said visitation has been suspended during past lockdowns, but never for this long. In a recorded phone call provided to 8News, Patterson described the situation to his fiancé. “People are losing their lives. People are OD’ing,” Patterson said. “We do want more security to help save those lives but no one is informing us of the steps that they’re actually taking.” Lawmakers say they’re in the dark, too. Delegate Irene Shin said she toured Lawrenceville Correctional during the lockdown. Shin said, based on her conversations, the lockdown has not solved the drug problem. She confirmed the details described by family members. “The conditions are unacceptable,” Shin said. “When I pushed the assistant warden at Lawrenceville for answers as to why this lockdown was happening, how long it was going to take, when will there be an end date to it, I was given pretty vague answers.” Shin said the difference in management is stark compared to state-run prisons that she has toured. “The state should end the contract with The GEO Group and bring Lawrenceville under state operations and oversight,” Shin said. During the 2021 legislative session, lawmakers rejected a bill that would have abolished for-profit prison management by 2024. Senator Adam Ebbin, who introduced the bill, said in a phone interview on Thursday that The GEO Group has profited by underpaying and under-hiring staff. Asked if he plans to introduce another bill in 2023, Ebbin said, “I’ve been making inquiries about whether or not the climate has changed. I’m assessing if legislative action is the best avenue.” At least one “no” vote is being met with second thoughts. “I have had a change of heart that, perhaps, we don’t have the right people there,” Senator Joe Morrissey said in a phone interview on Thursday. “I’m having more and more concern about a for-profit correctional center and the impact that’s having on the inmates. A lockdown going on this long is troubling.” Morrissey was among the “no” votes in 2021 who received campaign contributions from The GEO Group. Asked why he opposed the bill in the first place, he said he couldn’t explicitly remember and that he was in the process of reviewing old debates. In a previous interview, Senator Bill DeSteph said he was unaware of the donation and he opposed the bill because he didn’t want to take away a tool from VADOC. “I think that we should continue to privatize our prisons if it is most cost-effective to do so,” DeSteph said last year. Ebbin said legislation may not be necessary. He said the Virginia Department of Corrections is engaged in a private contract and they have the power to change that. Ebbin said he plans to engage Gov. Glenn Youngkin’s administration about the issue. Youngkin’s office didn’t respond to a request for comment on Thursday. Secretary of Public Safety and Homeland Security Robert Mosier didn’t comment either. In an email, VADOC Spokesperson Benjamin Jarvela said they were aware of the lockdown. Asked about calls to end the state’s contract, Jarvela said, “The Department does not engage speculation. We have no further comment.” The GEO Group didn’t answer emailed questions about when the lockdown will be lifted but a spokesperson, Christopher Ferreira, responded in a statement. “Recently, Lawrenceville, like correctional facilities across the country, has seen an increasing flow of illegal drugs seeping behind the walls, in more sophisticated ways, such as with the use of drones,” Ferreira said. “The introduction of contraband and related drug abuse is a formidable challenge, and we are redoubling our efforts to combat it. The lockdown at the Center is a security measure meant to help address this challenge.” Ferreira said the facility has invested in new technology, hired more staff and increased training. He said they have also enhanced security measures, including a “state-of-the-art drone detection system” and “sophisticated contraband detection scanners.” “We value the long-standing partnership we have with the community and Virginia DOC and as such, we are working tirelessly in our efforts to meet and exceed what is expected of us,” Ferreira said.

Sep 21, 2022

Virginia sheriff is concerned about this prison: 'You failed this community'

BRUNSWICK COUNTY, Va. — Once a bustling agricultural center, most of the storefronts in Lawrenceville, Virginia now sit empty. "This is a poor county, this is country, farm, agricultural county, doesn't have a lot of industry," Brunswick County Sheriff Brian Roberts said. Brunswick County does have one major economic lifeline: Lawrenceville Correctional Center - a level three state prison. "I do not want the prison to close. This is a small community, impoverished community, we do not need to lose any jobs," Roberts said. Roberts started working for the Sherriff's Office in Brunswick County 25 years ago, the same year the Lawrenceville Correctional Center opened. "In the first half of life of the prison, it was an asset," Roberts said. But recently, Roberts said, the prison has become a liability. "I think the 911 call came in last year that said we've got six inmates on top of a building, escaped from their housing unit, running around on the campus, that's pretty crazy," Roberts said. Between January 1, 2021, and May 20, 2022, the Brunswick Office of Emergency Communications received 204 calls for service from the prison. Of those calls, 39 were for drug overdoses and 21 were to respond to an unconscious person. Prison calls for service over time have skyrocketed since 2018. In the last four months, two calls turned into hazmat situations. "Our first mass casualty was a group of people exposed to a drug that we still do not know what it was," Alberta Volunteer Fire Department Chief Ted Smith said. "We had to put our squads out of service for 24 hours." Alberta is one of three EMS agencies that respond to calls from Lawrenceville Correctional Center. "My biggest concern is the safety of our providers not knowing what we're going into when we go over there," Smith said. Chief Smith said when his crews constantly get called to the prison, it is the citizens of Brunswick who suffer. "When the call volume goes up, we are taken away from our community," Smith said. "We have had calls that we have had citizens heart attacks, diabetic emergencies that was in our first due area but we was in our second due area trying to cover a mass incident for GEO." GEO Group is the private company the state contracts with to run Lawrenceville Correctional Center. It is the only privately-run state prison in Virginia, which is an agreement a 2020 state study found saved the Commonwealth $9.3 million for FY2020. "It's a failed business transaction right now," Sheriff Roberts said."They obviously have a staffing issue, they have a shortage of staffing issue, an integrality of a staffing issue." In the first half of 2022, the Virginia Department of Corrections assessed GEO $2.2 million in liquidated damages for failing to comply with the staffing requirements of the contract. Roberts said Governor Glenn Youngkin's Secretary of Public Safety and Homeland Security Bob Mosier came down on August 25 and met with him and executives from GEO about the problems. That's when he learned a shocking statistic. "[Lawrenceville Correctional Center] contributes to over 50 percent, he quoted around 55 percent, of all the overdoses in the entire [prison] system. I was pretty startled," Roberts said. Five inmates died at Lawrenceville in the fiscal year 2021. Twelve inmates died the following year (FY2022). Sheriff Roberts said the numbers show it's time for a change. "Most perfect world they would turn it back into a state-run facility," Roberts said. "Second most perfect world, the state holds GEO accountable or they figure out their contract to do better, whether that is an accountability do better, or change companies do better, I don't know what that is." In the meantime, he has a message for the people who run the prison. "Do better, it's real simple. Be a good partner. You were a good partner. You failed this community. Just do better. Figure it out," Roberts said. Governor Youngkin's spokesperson Macaulay Porter said the Department of Corrections was looking into the matter and the facility is submitting a plan to address these issues. The CBS 6 Problem Solvers asked GEO Group what they are doing to fix the problems inside the prison. A spokesperson responded via email with an August 23 letter sent to the head of the DOC. In the letter, Geo Group Senior Vice President James Black said due to the recent overdoses, the facility was placed on restricted movement status to curtail the movement of contraband by limiting the movement of inmates.

Among the other solutions Black mentioned:

Systematic searches and mass urine testing

Transferring the inmates involved in the overdoses to other facilities

Investing in a state-of-the-art drone detection system because some of the contraband was being dropped by drones

Implementing a pilot program to scan mail for enhanced contraband detection

Increasing officer pay to 20 dollars per hour.

Aug 26, 2022

Company running Lawrenceville prison details response to suspected overdoses, death amid state investigation

BRUNSWICK COUNTY, Va. (WRIC) — The corporation running Virginia’s only private prison says that “increasingly sophisticated methods” are being used to smuggle in drugs as the state investigates several potential overdoses and a death at the facility. The Virginia Department of Corrections launched an investigation after several people incarcerated at Lawrenceville Correctional Center in Brunswick County suffered apparent overdoses, including one who died on Aug. 6. The GEO Group, the prison’s operator since 2013, sent a letter to Virginia Department of Corrections Director Harold Clarke on Aug. 23 outlining measures it took after the incident and others it hopes will help prevent drugs from flowing into the prison. “GEO acknowledges that recent drug overdoses at the Lawrenceville prison have raised appropriate concerns about the safety and security of those who are held there,” James H. Black, senior vice president of The GEO Group, wrote in the letter. The investigation into suspected overdoses at Virginia’s only privately run prison comes nearly two years after lawmakers rejected a push to end private management of state prisons and a little under a year before GEO Group’s contract with the state is set to expire. In response to the apparent overdoses, Black wrote that Lawrenceville restricted movement of those incarcerated at the facility unless it was “medically necessary,” conducted searches and did “mass urine analysis testing.” “A review of the inmate communications and accounts has revealed no unusual communication patterns or account activity, although we continue to collaborate with the VADOC SIU to identify ring leaders,” Black wrote to Clarke. A Department of Corrections spokesperson told 8News on Aug. 24 that the state’s investigation is ongoing and the department was evaluating GEO’s letter but had no response at the time. Private prison company donated money to Virginia senators who killed bill to end for-profit prisons in the state. The letter added that those impacted were treated with Narcan, mass interviews were conducted and incarcerated people “involved in the overdoses” were transferred to higher security facilities. Those involved who refused a drug test “received disciplinary action,” according to the letter. GEO Group said it has “been aggressively addressing the drug and contraband issue at Lawrenceville for several years,” but noted the prison is facing a widespread problem. The letter pointed to certain tactics to smuggle in drugs, including strips of paper, pills and candy laced with drugs being brought into the prison. “Inmates manipulate/pay family, friends, staff, contractors, and gang members outside the facility to obtain drugs,” Black wrote. “They are using increasingly sophisticated methods, resulting in contraband being brought into a facility in one of five ways: from the air (drones), perimeter throwovers, mail, packages, or the front entrance (staff, contractors, or visitors).” According to figures from the Department of Corrections, state prisons have reported 332 drug overdose incidents and 24 deaths since 2016. While in-person visitation was put on hold for more than a year in March 2020 due to COVID-19, data from 2020 and 2021 shows overdose incidents in Virginia prisons near the yearly average since 2016. Virginia’s contract with GEO Group is set to expire in July 2023, but it could be renewed for another 10 years. GEO Group has been fined for not meeting the terms of its agreement with the Department of Corrections and penalized in 2020 for a lack of nurses, a doctor and a psychiatrist. The legislative effort to ban private companies such as GEO Group from managing state prisons was killed in a Virginia Senate committee in January 2021. A 2020 study found Lawrenceville’s annual operating budget would increase by $9.3 million if the state took over as its operator but the report noted the Department of Corrections “would increase staffing at the facility to provide adequate relief and address needs for improved security.” “We highly value the partnership we have with your Department and would welcome the opportunity to provide those elected and appointed officials who have expressed concerns about drugs at the facility with a first-hand presentation of what we are doing to deal with this destructive presence in our prisons and communities,” Black wrote to Clarke.

Aug 11, 2022
Virginia investigating suspected overdoses at only privately run prison

BRUNSWICK COUNTY, Va. (WRIC) — A state investigation into potential overdoses and a death at Virginia’s only privately run prison is underway. The Geo Group, a Florida-based private prison contractor, has operated Lawrenceville Correctional Center in Brunswick County since 2003. The facility is the only state prison not run by the Virginia Department of Corrections. A spokesperson for The GEO Group confirmed Wednesday that the state’s Department of Corrections is investigating after one person incarcerated at the prison was found dead on Aug. 6. Private prison company donated money to Virginia senators who killed bill to end for-profit prisons in the state In a statement, the spokesperson said staff at Lawrenceville recently observed several people imprisoned at the facility “who appeared to be lethargic and unresponsive.” “Medical assistance was immediately called and the affected inmates were administered emergency care to stabilize their condition before being transported to the local hospital as a precautionary measure,” GEO Group’s statement read. “We can confirm that on August 6, 2022, an inmate was found unresponsive and passed away. We express our condolences to his family and loved ones.” The spokesperson added that the Virginia Department of Corrections was investigating the death, but did not respond to additional questions about how many people needed medical assistance or details about drugs that could have caused the apparent overdoses. Benjamin Jarvela, the director of communications for the Virginia Department of Corrections, confirmed a probe was underway but said the department does not comment on active investigations. “GEO considers the health and safety of those entrusted to our care to be our primary mission and we will take any and all necessary steps to ensure that the circumstances surrounding this tragic situation are promptly and thoroughly addressed,” the company spokesperson’s statement continued. 8News has reported on concerns over staffing and conditions at Lawrenceville. GEO Group has been fined for not meeting the terms of its agreement with the department of corrections and penalized in 2020 for a lack of nurses, a doctor and a psychiatrist. A legislative effort to ban private companies from managing state prisons was killed in a Virginia Senate committee in January 2021. After the vote, 8News reported that nine of the 11 state senators who voted against a bill that would have abolished for-profit prison management by 2024 received campaign contributions from GEO Group before the 2021 General Assembly session. The money given to the senators’ campaigns were small fractions of their total political donations and the only lawmaker to respond to 8News for the story said he wasn’t aware of the contribution before the vote.

May 9, 2022

Multiple people treated with Narcan at Lawrenceville Correctional Center

BRUNSWICK COUNTY, Va. - An investigation is underway after an incident at the Lawrenceville Correctional Center in Brunswick County Sunday morning. That incident resulted in Narcan being administered to multiple people, sources told WTVR CBS 6. EMS and fire crews responded to the state prison, which is managed by the GEO Group. Officials with the Lawrenceville Volunteer Fire Department said they do not know what the substance is that the individuals were exposed to. However, those officials said the investigation into the incident is ongoing. Narcan or naloxone is a medication that can reverse an overdose from opioids like heroin, fentanyl and prescription opioid medications, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Aug 5, 2021
Inmate at Lawrenceville Correctional Center dies after attack

LAWRENCEVILLE, Va. (WRIC) - An inmate at Lawrenceville Correctional Center has died after being attacked in their cell by another inmate Tuesday night, the Virginia Department of Corrections said. VADOC said the victim was a 63-year-old man who was serving a 26-year sentence for crimes including forcible sodomy and aggravated sexual battery. The suspect is serving a 22-year sentence for crimes including robbery, malicious wounding and assault by an inmate or probationer on an employee. Virginia's only private prison is routinely short-staffed and in breach of its contract with the state Officials said the incident is being investigated as a homicide. Lawrenceville Correctional Center is Virginia's only privatized prison and is operated by The GEO Group, Inc.

May 11, 2021

Lawrenceville Correctional Center confirms inmate death, addresses unrelated violent altercation

LAWRENCEVILLE, Va. (WRIC) — The Lawrenceville Correctional Center confirmed that an inmate died at the facility on Sunday. A spokesperson with the GEO Group, the company that runs the correctional center, would not give details about the death but did confirm that it occurred on May 9. “We can also confirm that the individual received prompt medical care, in accordance with the standards set by the Virginia Department of Corrections and the American Correctional Association,” the spokesperson said in an email. The official said this death is still under investigation. The GEO Group also stated in their release that an unrelated violent incident occurred on May 3. According to the spokesperson, multiple inmates got into an altercation resulting in one person being taken to the hospital with “multiple puncture wounds.” That inmate returned to the prison two days later in stable condition. The altercation and wounding is also under investigation by the Virginia Department of Corrections. This is a developing story, stay with 8News for updates.

Feb 13, 2021

Inmate death at Virginia’s only for profit prison is under investigation

RICHMOND, Va. (WRIC) — The Virginia Department of Corrections has confirmed that an inmate died at the Lawrenceville Correctional Center Feb. 3. The VADOC said the Medical Examiner will determine the cause of death. The Lawrenceville prison located in Brunswick County is the only prison in the state operated by a private company. “We experienced the tragic loss of an individual residing at the Lawrenceville Correctional Center and we express our condolences to their family and loved ones,” said a spokesperson for the GEO Group, Inc., which operates the correctional facility. While we can confirm the cause was not from stabbing, the matter is currently under investigation and we would refer you to the Virginia Department of Corrections for more information “ Virginia’s only private prison is routinely short-staffed and in breach of its contract with the state. Multiple sources connected to prison have told 8News the death was the result of drug overdose. Neither GEO Group or the VADOC could confirm that. Meantime, the GEO spokesperson had this to say: “Like many correctional facilities across the country, the Lawrenceville Correctional Center faces challenges related to the use of drones for the introduction of drug-related contraband into correctional settings,” said the GEO spokesperson. “We are continuing to work with the Virginia Department of Corrections to address the challenges related to the introduction of drug-related contraband using drones.” The facility has been closed to visitations and outsiders since March of last year when the pandemic hit. Sources have also reported a rash of violence in the prison recently. The GEO spokesperson confirms an incident but says not one was seriously hurt. Private prison company donated money to Virginia senators who killed bill to end for-profit prisons in the state. “As a service provider to the Commonwealth of Virginia, all actions taken by GEO at the Lawrenceville Correctional Center are made at the direction of the Virginia Department of Corrections,” the spokesperson said. “We can confirm that there was a recent incident involving an altercation between three inmates and the inmates involved received minor injuries that were treated onsite by the Center’s medical professionals.” The Lawrenceville Correctional Center has come under fire recently for a lack of staffing and security concerns. An 8News investigation uncovered the prison has been understaffed for years and the GEO Group has been fined hundreds of thousands of dollars for it. A bill to ban prisons for profit in Virginia recently failed.

Jan 26, 2021

Private prison company donated money to Virginia senators who killed bill to end for-profit prisons in the state

RICHMOND, Va. (WRIC) — Nine of the 11 Virginia state senators who voted against a bill that would have abolished for-profit prison management by 2024 received campaign contributions ahead of this year’s General Assembly session from the company operating the state’s only privately run facility, according to campaign finance reports. On Jan. 15, the Virginia Senate Rehabilitation and Social Services Committee debated SB 1179, proposed by Sen. Adam Ebbin (D-Alexandria), that sought to end the for-profit prison management system in the commonwealth by stripping the authority of the director of Virginia’s Department of Corrections to enter into contracts with private prison operators. The only prison in Virginia not operated by the Department of Corrections is Lawrenceville Correctional Center, which has been run by GEO Group, Inc., a Florida-based private prison contractor, since 2003. GEO Group donated to 29 state lawmakers in 2020, $26,500 to 12 Democrats and $8,500 to 17 Republicans, according to analysis from the nonpartisan Virginia Public Access Project. 8News independently confirmed VPAP’s analysis by reviewing campaign finance reports filed with the state. The company contributed to the campaigns of nine members of the Senate Rehabilitation and Social Services Committee with donations ranging from $250 to $1,000. All of the senators who received donations from GEO Group rejected the measure from Ebbin:


Sen. Bill DeSteph (R-Virginia Beach) – $250

Sen. Emmett W. Hanger Jr. (R-Augusta)- $250

Sen. Jen A. Kiggans (R-Virginia Beach) – $500

Sen. T. Montgomery “Monty” Mason (D-Williamsburg) – $1,000

Sen. Ryan McDougle (R-Hanover) – $1,000

Sen. Joe Morrissey (D-Richmond) – $500

Sen. Bryce Reeves (R-Spotsylvania) – $500

Sen. Lionell Spruill Sr. (Chesapeake) – $1,000

Sen. Scott Surovell (Fairfax) – $500


In a Senate Rehabilitation and Social Services Committee meeting, Ebbin argued that private prisons hire fewer staff members and provide less training in order to cut costs, claiming that, on average, employees at Lawrenceville receive $5,000 less per year than workers at state-run facilities. “I want to stress that this bill does not close Lawrenceville,” Ebbin told the panel. “Lawrenceville is owned by the state, the brick-and-mortar facility. It wouldn’t close it. It would transfer the facility back to the Department of Corrections.” Sen. Joe Morrissey (D-Richmond) asked Ebbin what empirical evidence he had that shows private prisons function worse than facilities operated by the state. Ebbin pointed to a study done last year, which was ordered by the Senate Rehabilitation and Social Services Committee after the panel set a similar bill from Ebbin aside for the 2020 General Assembly session, that he said found Lawrenceville would hire 93 additional staff members if run by the VADOC. Morrissey, who said his focus was the safety of inmates and referenced over 100 letters he wrote to wardens across the state to release offenders with pre-existing conditions amid fears of the coronavirus pandemic, later challenged Ebbin on language in the bill that would allow the VADOC to contract out other services after possibly taking over Lawrenceville. Sen. Ryan McDougle (R-Hanover) asked Ebbin why the Department of Corrections couldn’t simply mandate additional staff members in a contract with private prison operators to solve the issue. “We’re the ones who deprive these people their liberty,” Ebbin responded. “We’re the ones who should ensure that their care is adequate and up to the standards of other facilities in the state.” “It seems to me like the issues Senator Ebbin is expressing are ones that are clearly in the control of DOC, who he is advocating would do a better job,” McDougle argued. “If they didn’t require more staff, if their oversight is not doing it, I’m kind of agreeing with Senator Morrissey. I don’t know why we think it’s a panacea that DOC is going to be doing a significantly better job.” After comments from the public and a bit more debate, the committee voted to kill the legislation. Five Democrats on the panel — Morrissey, Sen. Scott Surovell (Fairfax), Sen. Lionell Spruill Sr. (Chesapeake), Sen. Mamie Locke (Hampton) and Sen. T. Montgomery “Monty” Mason (D-Williamsburg) — joined the six Republicans who sit on the committee to vote against the bill. Campaigns receive several contributions throughout the year and money from GEO Group represents only a small fraction of what the senators on the committee received last filing period. 8News reached out to all nine senators on the committee who received contributions from the company before the 2020 session. Sen. DeSteph, the only lawmaker who responded, said he wasn’t aware of Geo Group’s donation before the vote on SB 1179. “I do not pay attention to who donates to our campaign and will tell you that had nothing to do with my vote on this bill,” he told 8News. “I think that we should continue to privatize our prisons if it is most cost effective to do so.” DeSteph added he was concerned of possibly removing power from the director of the state’s Department of Corrections to contract with private prisons. “I think they should have the authority to have these prisoners housed wherever they deem necessary,” DeSteph continued. “If they need to go to a private facility then so be it…However, I did not want to take a tool out of their toolbox.” After requesting an interview with GEO Group, a spokesperson shared a written statement. “GEO has had a long-standing partnership with the Commonwealth and supports candidates who recognize both the important role we play in providing high-quality services, as well as the role of our Continuum of Care program, which intensely focuses on rehabilitation programming and unprecedented post-release support services, plays in helping inmates earn their re-entry into society as productive and employable citizens,” the spokesperson wrote in an email. Before last year, GEO Group had contributed $67,540 to political campaigns in Virginia since 2015. No donations went to a Democratic candidate or lawmaker in that time, according to VPAP. House Appropriations Chairman Luke Torian (D-Prince William) received the largest donation, $10,000, from GEO Group. Torian did not respond to our request seeking comment. Del. Elizabeth R. Guzman (D-Prince William), who is running for Virginia’s lieutenant governor, was the chief co-patron on Ebbin’s bill and has introduced similar legislation in 2019. “Well, you know I think Virginia is a state that is in desperate need of finance reform,” Guzman told 8News’ Kerri O’Brien in an interview. “We don’t have any type of limitations.” Guzman noted that she does not believe GEO Group influenced her colleagues’ votes, but called on the company to invest in staffing at Lawrenceville instead of political campaigns. “But I would say that maybe GEO Group should put its money into better staffing rather than campaign contributions,” Guzman said.


Jan 26, 2021

Virginia’s only private prison is routinely short-staffed and in breach of its contract with the state

BRUNSWICK COUNTY, Va. (WRIC) — 8News has uncovered a prison for profit in Virginia is routinely understaffed, potentially putting security and safety for the whole state at risk. There have been numerous complaints about staffing and conditions at the Lawrenceville Correctional Center for about a year now. 8News has learned The GEO Group, Inc, which operates the Lawrenceville Correctional Center Brunswick County, has been in breach of its contract with the state for years. Memos and invoices obtained by 8News reveal that month after month The GEO group has been fined thousands of dollars in damages for a lack of staffing at the correctional facility.  The documents show both security and health positions have been left unmanned. Private prison company donated money to Virginia senators who killed bill to end for-profit prisons in the state. This is not surprising to Franchesca Hylton. “They don’t have enough people there, it is understaffed,” she said. Hylton’s husband Robert is doing time for armed robbery at Lawrenceville. She said guards are working 15 to 16 hours a day due to staffing shortages. Hylton claims her husband has been denied medical care for his terminal heart condition — and she told lawmakers this during a recent senate hearing about the short-staffing. “Sometimes they don’t get served breakfast until three in the afternoon because of short staff,” she testified. Lawrenceville is the only privately run prison in the state. A representative from McGuireWoods, a legal service and public relations firm hired by GEO, told state lawmakers many correctional facilities are struggling to recruit in a pandemic. “We know there is concern over staff openings at the facility,” said Kassie Schroth with McGuireWoods. “The ability to recruit and retain qualified staff is not unique to Lawrenceville, and I’m sure the DOC would concur with the challenges for hiring at other facilities, especially in the midst of a global pandemic.” Yet 8News found the staffing shortages are nothing new. Since GEO’s contract with the Virginia Department of Corrections was renewed in 2018, The Geo Group has been fined nearly $800,000 dollars for not meeting the terms of the agreement. In January 2020 alone, before the pandemic, the company was penalized more than $130,000.00 for a lack of nurses, a physician and a psychiatrist. “They have incentives to cut corners,” said Delegate Elizabeth Guzman (D-Prince William). Guzman has long been an opponent of prisons for profit and said she regularly gets complaints from constituents about this prison. “It’s cheaper for them to pay for damages than it is to just meet the terms of the contract,” Guzman said. Virginia lawmakers recently had a chance to end this relationship. Instead a bill to ban private prison management in the Commonwealth appears to have been dead on arrival. State senators quickly voted it down in committee. 8News uncovered 9 of the 11 senators who voted against the measure received campaign contributions from the company running the prison, The GEO Group. “Well, you know I think Virginia is a state that is in desperate need of finance reform.  We don’t have any type of limitations,” Guzman said. ‘Not one more death’: Caravan for prison justice drives through Richmond for pandemic change. The lawmakers say they worried about the cost to the state and questioned if the Virginia Department of Corrections could do a better job. Del. Guzman doesn’t believe her colleagues were influenced by GEO Group but has a message for the private operator. “I would say that maybe GEO Group should put its money in to better staffing rather than campaign contributions,” she said. In a statement to 8News a spokesperson for The GEO Group said: For nearly two decades, we have safely and securely managed the Lawrenceville Correctional Center as a long-standing partner to the Virginia Department of Corrections. As an essential government services provider, our front-line employees strive daily to deliver high-quality services to those entrusted to our care. Senator Ebbin’s legislation is misguided and does not recognize the true value and benefits of GEO’s operation of the Lawrenceville Correctional Center. Staffing challenges are not unique in correctional facilities, whether operated by the government or the private sector. While we work with our government partner to ensure adequate staffing levels, our contract provides for the appropriate amount of staff to safely and securely manage the Center. Due to the pandemic, many correctional settings, both in Virginia and nationwide, are currently facing challenges recruiting and hiring qualified applicants. The Lawrenceville Correctional Center is also subject to oversight and high levels of accountability to ensure we strive to meet our contractual obligations. The Center is overseen by an on-site contract monitor from the Virginia Department of Corrections and is routinely audited by the government, third-party accreditation entities, such as the American Correctional Association, and GEO’s Contract Compliance Division. As a service provider, we welcome transparency and accountability in all of our operations. We are proud of our long-standing record of providing high-quality rehabilitation services and secure residential services on behalf of the Virginia DOC and will strive to ensure that those entrusted to our care continue to receive those services.” Del. Guzman is calling for Virginia’s Public Safety Secretary, Brian Moran, to take a look at the contract with GEO. She believes GEO’s failure to meet contractually agreed upon staffing levels could be a reason to terminate it.

Jan 16, 2021

Effort to Shut Down Virginia's Only Private Prison Dies an Early Death in Richmond

Lawmakers are rejecting an effort to abolish private prisons in Virginia. Franchesca Hylton is worried about her husband, who’s an inmate at Virginia's one and only private prison in Lawrenceville. "He has a heart condition, and since he has been at Lawrenceville he hasn't gotten the proper care," Hylton explained. "It wasn't up until recently that he was able to go see his cardiologist. And because of the lack of medical attention that he has gotten, it has fatally gotten worse." Hylton testified before a Senate committee in favor of a bill that would end the ability of the Department of Corrections to enter into contracts with companies like the GEO Group, a Florida-based company that operates the prison. A senate panel killed the bill after Senator Joe Morrissey, a Democrat from Richmond, said the profit motive is also a problem at state-operated prisons, where he says inmates are gouged for things like aspirin or phone calls. "They pay $1 or $1.10 or $1.50 a minute," he said. "It is that profit, which the patron said he is trying to take away, still remains in this bill." Morrissey joined four other Democrats on the committee who killed the bill, allowing the GEO Group to continue running a private prison in Virginia -- at least until the current contract expires in 2023.

Jan 13, 2021
One State Senator's Push to Close Virginia's Only Private Prison

State lawmakers are about to consider a bill that would outlaw private prisons. Housing inmates in Virginia prisons costs the state about $70 a day. But the private sector can do it a lot cheaper; about $50 a day. Senator Adam Ebbin is a Democrat from Alexandria who says lawmakers should not be outsourcing something as important as taking care of inmates. "It's really a policy question," Ebbin explains. "Should we be in the businesses of outsourcing one of our key functions? We don't do this for other prisons. We only do it for the one." That would be the Lawrenceville Correctional Center, the only private prison in Virginia. Ebbin's bill would outlaw the Department of Corrections from outsourcing inmates to for-profit corporations. David Rook at the Virginia Association of Recovery Residences says he wants to make sure Ebbin's bill would not prohibit contracts with private vendors for halfway houses. "Well that would be a concern because a lot of these programs are offering offenders a place to land when they reenter society," Rook says. "And if they don't have a place to land when they come in that kind of helps them get on their feet then we're asking for recidivism rates to rise." Ebbin says prohibiting for-profit reentry programs is not the goal of his legislation, and he'll be working to make sure the law is aimed squarely at closing the Lawrenceville private prison.

Dec 24, 2020

State senator wants to end ‘prison for profit,’ Virginia’s only privately-run prison

BRUNSWICK COUNTY, Va. (WRIC) — The Lawrenceville Correctional Center in Brunswick County is the only privately run prison in Virginia, however, a state lawmaker wants to prohibit privately run prisons in the Commonwealth. State Senator Adam Ebbin, a Democrat from Alexandria, said they have one motive and that’s to make money, so they cut corners. Ebbin says that puts all of us in danger and does little to help offender reenter society. “We don’t need prisons for profit, we need prisons for rehabilitation,” he said. Ebbin is planning to re-introduce legislation that would essentially end private prisons in Virginia and cut ties with the GEO Group, Inc which currently operates Lawrenceville — and his efforts are gaining ground. Inmates frustrated by COVID-19 Prison Spike: ‘Nobody really cares  GEO is not a very popular employer,” said John Horejsi, founder of SALT, Social Action Linking Together. The group advocates justice for the poor and powerless and say conditions inside Lawrenceville are dangerous. “The staffing is insufficient,” Horejsi said. He and others say conditions are inhumane. SALT member Chuck Meire has conducted case studies with offenders and families. Meire told 8News when an inmate lost his filling in his tooth and was excruciating pain, he waited six months to see a dentist. “The majority of that wait was simply because the GEO Group didn’t have a dentist on staff,” he said. Another inmate with a heart condition lost care when he was moved to Lawrenceville, even though it was mandated by the state. “When he transferred to Lawrenceville in 2016, he didn’t get access to a cardiologist for 4 years,” Meire said. GEO Group is paid per inmate, some say providing an incentive to keep the prison packed. SALT also argues to make the most profit they cut corners by lowering operating costs and hiring and training fewer employees. “Lawrenceville compared to comparable state run facilities has about 100 fewer guards on staff,” said Meire. A recent Virginia Department of Corrections report commissioned by the General Assembly found not only does the prison have fewer guards than others in the state, those guards are paid less and sometimes work more, putting security at risk. “They’re having to work 16 and 18 hour shifts,” Horejsi said. Should incarcerated Americans get vaccinated first? In a statement Christopher Feerreira, a spokesman for GEO Group said: For nearly two decades, we have safely and securely managed the Lawrenceville Correctional Center as a long-standing partner to the Virginia Department of Corrections. As an essential government services provider, our front-line employees strive daily to deliver high-quality services to those entrusted to our care. Staffing challenges are not unique in the correctional space and while we work with our government partners to ensure adequate staffing levels, our contacts provide for the appropriate amount of staff to safely and securely manage the Center. Due to the pandemic, many correctional settings are currently facing challenges recruiting and hiring qualified applicants. The Lawrenceville Correctional Center is also accredited by the American Correctional Association and is subject to oversight by an on-site contract monitor with the Virginia Department of Corrections, as well as routine client audits, third-party audits, and audits by GEO’s independent Contract Compliance division. Furthermore, we would note that in the most recent round of testing at the Lawrenceville Correctional Center, no GEO staff tested positive for COVID-19. For COVID-19 information related to inmates at the Lawrenceville Correctional Center, we would refer you to the Virginia Department of Corrections.” However, Senator Ebbin disagrees. “Lawrenceville’s ratio of inmates is 40% higher than the Department of Corrections requirements for their own facilities,” Ebbin said. He also noted that report also found an excess of $10 million in deferred maintenance work at the facility. Over the summer, 8News reported on flooding and water outages at the prison. It was the result of some leaky pipes. “In July of this year water was cut off to inmates for 4 days in some units due to pipe leaks,” Ebbin said. Meantime some worry, ending the contract with GEO Group could put people out of work. Yet, lawmakers like Delegate Kaye Kory a Democrat from Fairfax County say it could actually create more jobs. “They would hire and train more correctional officers.” Kory said. She also told 8News she has her own plans for legislation to that would aim to change state code and ultimately treat and pay corrections officers around the state better.

Jul 10, 2020 

Toothache at privately run prison in Virginia leads to legal ache in federal court

Conrad Burke had a temporary filling placed in a back tooth in January 2018, while being held at the Sussex I State Prison. Before it could be replaced with a permanent one, he was transferred to the Lawrenceville Correctional Center. In April 2018, after arriving at Lawrenceville, the state's only privately-run prison, the temporary filling fell out. He sought help but was told in writing that the prison did not have a dentist — as was required under its contract with the state of Virginia. For six months, he sought help as the pain grew. "It was unbearable, excruciating pain to the point where it felt like my head was about to fall off," Burke said Tuesday. "I couldn't even sleep ... eventually I would doze off but when I woke up it would still hurt. It was hurting around the clock." Burke's lawyer, Victor Glasberg of Alexandria, and Burke's family contacted state officials attempting to win dental treatment, but nothing was done until Burke was transferred back to a state-run prison where the tooth had to be pulled that October. Lawrenceville Correctional Center is operated by Geo Secure Services LLC, also known as Geo Corrections & Detention LLC, of Boca Raton, Fla. The company did not immediately return a request for comment Wednesday, but in court pleadings admitted no wrongdoing. Earlier this year, Glasberg filed suit in U.S. District Court against Geo and a state official on behalf of Burke, alleging cruel and unusual punishment and gross negligence. The case quickly headed to mediation, scheduled for later this month, and a settlement conference has been set by the court for Aug. 26. "By their actions and inaction in question, defendants displayed deliberate indifference to Mr. Burke's serious dental needs, thereby causing him ongoing severe pain for almost half a year and ultimately the loss of a tooth — all so as to permit Geo to make more money by not spending it on dental services," alleges the suit. Lawrenceville has 1,500 inmates. The GEO Group describes itself as "specializing in the design, financing, development, and operation of secure facilities, processing centers, and community reentry centers in the United States, Australia, South Africa, and the United Kingdom. "GEO is a leading provider of enhanced in-custody rehabilitation, post-release support, electronic monitoring, and community-based programs. GEO’s worldwide operations include the ownership and/or management of 126 facilities totaling approximately 94,000 beds, including projects under development, with a workforce of approximately 23,000 professionals," according to its website. According to media accounts, it has also been sued by inmates and their families across the U.S. over health care, safety and other issues. Documents submitted by Burke show he filed an emergency grievance at Lawrenceville on April 22, 2018, that states: "I have a filing [sic] that's come out of a tooth and I'm suffering with unbearable excruciating pain in my tooth and possible and likely infected blood ... I need to be treated by Dentist." The written staff response: "There is no dentist on staff @ present time. However, the search for one is ongoing." He filed another grievance the next day and was told the same thing in writing. Burke wrote an informal complaint on April 25. On May 9, the Lawrenceville staff responded: "Please note at this time we don't have a dentist. You will be recalled to medical for evaluation and pain management ... Please submit a request to dental so that we can add you to the list once the dentist comes he will schedule you at that time." On May 3, Glasberg's office emailed the Virginia attorney general's office about Burke's problem, which was described as "an appalling violation of his Eighth Amendment rights" against cruel and unusual punishment. On May 10, Glasberg himself emailed an assistant attorney general: "WHAT'S WRONG WITH THESE PEOPLE????? DO THEY NOT KNOW WHAT A TOOTHACHE IS?" he wrote. "Truly, this is outrageous," wrote Glasberg. Burke's family contacted the Virginia Department of Corrections seeking help, but on May 17, 2018, a department official sent Burke a letter stating that his complaint about his treatment "for bleeding gums" — not his toothache — "has been reviewed." "We have determined that you are being treated appropriately," the letter stated. On that May 21, Glasberg was told Lawrenceville had just hired a new dentist who would start work the following week. Burke was finally seen by a dentist at Lawrenceville on July 9. The dentist prescribed antibiotics and that treatment be rescheduled as soon as possible, according to the suit and accompanying documents. Burke never received the antibiotics or any treatment while at Lawrenceville, says the suit. In September, Burke was transferred to the state-run Pocahontas Correctional Center, where his tooth was pulled in October. In its response to Burke's suit, Geo did not admit any wrongdoing and said that the contract speaks for itself. The contract, according to Burke's suit, called for Geo to provide dental services in accordance with American Correctional Association standards, Virginia regulations and federal and state law, including emergency dental care 24 hours a day, seven days a week. And the contract states the facility must provide "not less than one on-site full-time dentist and suitable on-site dental support personnel." Burke is serving a total of 20 years for larceny, forgery and trespassing convictions in Halifax County. Reached by telephone Tuesday, he said, "They eventually had to pull it. I couldn't hardly eat or drink anything." "I wouldn't wish that on nobody," he said. "I can't compare no pain I ever been in to that."

May 1, 2015

RICHMOND, Va. (AP) -- Two Virginia corrections officers have been suspended following their indictment on drug conspiracy charges. Lann Clanton and Alphonso Ponton were among 13 current and former law enforcement officers indicted in North Carolina after participating in what they allegedly thought was a large-scale cocaine and heroin shipping operation. Authorities said Thursday it was actually an FBI sting. Virginia Department of Corrections spokeswoman Lisa Kinney says Clanton and Ponton were employees of The GEO Group Inc. at Lawrenceville Correctional Center. Lawrenceville is Virginia's only privatized prison. GEO Group spokesman Pablo Paez said Friday that Clanton and Ponton have been suspended without pay. Prosecutors say the defendants conspired to transport drugs along the Interstate 95 corridor. Authorities said the suspects transported fake drugs and that no real narcotics made it to the street.

June 13, 2012 Times-Dispatch
The Lawrenceville Correctional Center remains on lockdown after the death of an inmate last week following an attack. Dwayne M. Mckoy, 36, died "from apparent unnatural causes" in a suspected inmate-on-inmate attack in a cell about 2:45 p.m. Thursday, said Pablo E. Paez, a spokesman for The Geo Group Inc., which operates Lawrenceville. Paez said Mckoy was pronounced dead in the prison's medical unit. Lawrenceville is Virginia's only privately operated correctional facility. Paez said no correctional officers or employees were injured. "The incident is under investigation, with the facility operating under lockdown status at this time," he said. According to the Virginia Department of Corrections, the prison holds about 1,500 medium-security inmates.

August 22, 2008 Times-Dispatch
A former officer at the Lawrenceville Correctional Center was sentenced yesterday to six months behind bars for taking a $2,000 bribe from an inmate. Harold Douglas Jr., 30, a former lieutenant at the privately run state prison, took a cashier's check from inmate David E. Davis, 39, in 2006 in exchange for not reporting the inmate had been caught with marijuana. Davis claimed Douglas extorted the money from him and triggered the investigation by showing authorities the canceled check he wrote Douglas. But Davis, too, was convicted of bribery, and got three years added to the 13 years 11 months he is already serving. Yesterday, Brunswick County Commonwealth's Attorney Lezlie S. Green, who asked that Davis be sentenced to six years, told Judge W. Allan Sharrett she believed she needed to seek no less for Douglas. She said inmates from area prisons are often prosecuted for drug and other offenses. "Certainly, we must hold the officers to at least [the same], if not higher standards." she argued. Douglas testified that he was the single parent of a 9-year-old son and took the money because he got in financial difficulty. "I needed the money to try and get ahead of my bills," he told the judge. Sharrett told Douglas that he "committed a crime which has struck at the heart of the integrity of our justice system." Sharrett said he often has to balance the testimony of corrections officers with those of inmates in court cases. Nevertheless, Sharrett noted among other things that Douglas, unlike Davis, was not already a felon and that he was making an attempt to raise his son, though not doing as good a job as Douglas's own parents had done with him. Sharrett then sentenced Douglas to five years in prison with four years and six months suspended. The law makes it a crime for public officials to take or solicit a bribe or for someone to make one. Each man was facing a maximum of 10 years in prison. Davis told investigators in late 2006 that on April 14 of that year he bought a marijuana joint from another inmate in a chow hall and that Douglas saw the exchange. Davis said Douglas did not charge him, saying they would talk later. A few days after the incident, Davis said Douglas demanded $2,000 or Davis would be prosecuted. Davis claimed he told Douglas that it was too late to charge him. So Douglas, alleged Davis, responded he would falsely accuse Davis of assaulting him. Lawrenceville, with 1,500, medium-security inmates, is Virginia's only privately run prison.

February 7, 2008 Richmond Times-Dispatch
Female officers may now frisk male prisoners as the number of women working for the Virginia Department of Corrections grows. The move was prompted by cell phones and other contraband getting into the hands of inmates at the Lawrenceville Correctional Center, the state's only private prison, where two-thirds of the staff are women and all 1,500 inmates are men. An independent study last year found that the relative shortage of male officers there meant an inadequate number of searches were being conducted. The change in the Virginia Department of Corrections' long-standing policy took effect Jan. 1. At least four other states, Texas, Oklahoma, Michigan and Colorado and the U.S. Bureau of Prisons also allow such searches. But at least one expert believes it is a change in the wrong direction. Larry Traylor, the department spokesman, says only staff of the same sex are still allowed to conduct -- or be present during -- strip searches of inmates unless there is an emergency situation. Also, he said, male staff are still barred from searching female inmates. "We deem it inappropriate and not within professional boundaries," said Traylor. Traylor said the department made the change, "in order to ensure good facility security and adjust our operations to meet the changing gender makeup of our employees." Statewide, more than 38 percent of Virginia's 6,473 corrections officers are women and 92.5 percent of the inmates are men. Ten years earlier the staff was 35 percent female. According to federal figures, women now constitute roughly a third of prison and jail staff across the country. The phenomenon is leading to new rules and sometimes difficult situations -- if not trouble -- for staff and inmates.

December 27, 2007 Times-Dispatch
A surprise shakedown this month at Virginia's only private prison turned up a half-dozen cell phones. Larry Traylor, spokesman for the Virginia Department of Corrections, could not provide details yesterday but confirmed the phones were discovered during an unannounced search by state officials at the Lawrenceville Correctional Center on Dec. 7. An independent study released in September found the prison had a problem with cell phones, drugs, other contraband and high staff turnover, but the study noted it was difficult to compare the scope of problems there with those in state-run prisons. Nevertheless, members of the Virginia State Crime Commission, which met at the Lawrenceville prison in September, were assured by officials with the Geo Group Inc. of Boca Raton, Fla., that steps were being taken to improve security there. Geo runs the 1,500-inmate, medium-security prison under a five-year, $95 million contract. More than 40 other correctional facilities in the state are run by the Virginia Department of Corrections. In March, The Times-Dispatch, using state figures, reported that last year one in five cell phones confiscated in all state prisons were seized at Lawrenceville and that a highly disproportionate number of inmates were caught with drugs there. However, authorities later said those figures were incomplete and gave a misleading picture of the contraband problem at Lawrenceville. Complete figures for cell phone, drug and other seizures in state prisons were not made available by prison officials. Among other things, the independent study found that Lawrenceville had been targeting inmates suspected of using drugs for drug testing to a larger extent than in state prisons, where there is more of an emphasis on random testing. The study found that in 2006, Lawrenceville inmates tested positive for drugs more than 19 percent of the time, four times the highest rate in six nearby state-run prisons and more than 20 times higher than at the state's Brunswick Correctional Center next door. A Lawrenceville inmate, Eric L. Williams, 45, wrote in a Dec. 11 letter to The Times-Dispatch that a state strike team composed of officers from other prisons entered Lawrenceville Correctional Center around 7:30 p.m. on Dec. 7. Inmates were ordered to report to the gymnasium where they were searched, Williams said. He said the operation was conducted without the prior knowledge of Lawrenceville officers. Geo spokesman Pablo E. Paez declined to comment, referring questions to Traylor. Williams, serving almost 45 years on robbery, escape and drug convictions in Arlington, said the prison had been searched recently by Lawrenceville officers. He said that on Dec. 7, each inmate had to sit in a metal-detecting chair, and he claimed there also were strip and body-cavity searches. He said that as many as 40 inmates who had contraband or were deemed uncooperative were transferred to other prisons the next day. Traylor would not confirm if any inmates had been transferred but wrote in an e-mail that "inmates that are caught concealing contraband may be subject to disciplinary procedures including criminal prosecution and transfer to a higher security prison facility." Brunswick County Commonwealth's Attorney Lezlie Green could not be reached for comment yesterday. Traylor said yesterday that the department now has several dogs trained to detect cell phones. "We will be utilizing these dogs on a regular basis at all facilities for the purpose of finding cell phones and other contraband," he said. Earlier this year, two former Lawrenceville officers caught with 14.6 grams of cocaine pleaded guilty to federal charges of conspiring to deliver drugs to inmates, and a former lieutenant is facing a bribery charge after being accused of taking $2,000 from an inmate there.

September 12, 2007 Times-Dispatch
An independent study released yesterday found the state's only private prison has problems with drugs, cell phones and high staff turnover. It was not possible, however, to compare the extent to which drugs are getting into the Lawrenceville Correctional Center with prisons run by the Virginia Department of Corrections because the testing at Lawrenceville was not conducted according to state requirements. The Virginia State Crime Commission met inside the prison yesterday for a briefing on a report written by MGT of America Inc. for the Department of Corrections. The report found that Lawrenceville, despite its contraband problems, overall was a well-run, clean and safe facility and noted that any prison can have serious security breaches. "In this case those breaches resulted in the high incidence of drugs and cell phones being introduced inside the prison," the report said. In March, The Times-Dispatch, using state figures, reported that more than twice as many inmates were caught with drugs at Lawrenceville as in all other Virginia prisons combined, and that one in five cell phones confiscated in prisons in Virginia were seized there. Later, however, the Department of Corrections said those figures were incomplete and gave a misleading picture of the contraband problem at Lawrenceville. This year, two former Lawrenceville officers caught with 14.6 grams of cocaine pleaded guilty to federal charges of conspiring to deliver drugs to inmates, and a former lieutenant is facing a bribery charge for allegedly taking $2,000 from an inmate there. Lawrenceville is operated by GEO Group Inc. under a five-year, $95 million state contract. The medium-security prison holds more than 1,576 male inmates. Yesterday, Kenneth McGinnis of MGT told the crime commission that the number of inmates testing positive for drugs at Lawrenceville could not be properly compared with figures from state prisons. That is because until December, Lawrenceville had been targeting inmates suspected of using drugs for testing to a larger extent than in state prisons, where there is more of an emphasis on random testing. MGT found that in 2006, Lawrenceville inmates tested positive for drugs more than 19 percent of the time, four times the highest rate in six nearby state-run prisons and more than 20 times higher than at the state's Brunswick Correctional Center next door. Also, Lawrenceville had not been conducting as many tests as required under its contract. It should have been randomly testing 5 percent of the inmate population each month, but in 2006, it tested an average of 2.9 percent. State Sen. Kenneth W. Stolle, R-Virginia Beach and vice chairman of the commission, said adequate random testing is needed to determine the extent of a prison's contraband problem. John M. Hurley, a GEO vice president, agreed and conceded that "we let our guard down. . . . We weren't complying." Officials said that in March, after more extensive random testing began, of 107 inmates tested, just two were positive. No figures on cell-phone seizures at Lawrenceville or state prisons were available in the 34-page report. However, the report said prison investigators said that some inmates who got cell phones inside the prison rented them to other inmates. The report offered 50 recommendations for improving security. MGT also said there were staffing problems at the private prison, where the employees are paid less than their state counterparts. In 2006, 112 staff members at Lawrenceville resigned or were fired out of 341 positions. At the time of the study, the security staff had a 15 percent vacancy rate and nearly 30 percent of the security staff had less than a year of experience. "Given the present problems of contraband within the institution, the present number of vacancies with the security staff . . . contributes to the present security problem," said the MGT report. The most frequently cited reasons former employees gave for leaving Lawrenceville included the pay and benefits. It was noted that the Geo Group Inc. authorized a $1 an hour pay increase for security staff in Lawrenceville in April.

May 23, 2007 Times-Dispatch
The Virginia State Crime Commission wants a satisfactory explanation for contraband seizures reported at the state's only private prison, or it may conduct its own investigation. "Something's not right, and we need to make sure that we have an understanding of what this problem is," state Sen. Kenneth W. Stolle, R-Virginia Beach, the commission chairman, said yesterday. Citing figures from the Virginia Department of Corrections, The Times-Dispatch reported in March that last year there were twice as many drug seizures at the Lawrenceville Correctional Center than in all the other prisons combined. Also, one in five cell phones seized from inmates was seized at Lawrenceville during that same period. However, at yesterday's crime commission meeting, Gene Johnson, director of the Virginia Department of Corrections, said the figures reported in the newspaper and cited by Stolle were incomplete because of the way prisons around the state report them to Richmond. The result was a misleadingly bleak picture, he said. "It's not twice as many at Lawrenceville than at our other facilities," Johnson said. "They may have been higher . . . but it was not the large difference that appeared," he said. Johnson promised to get the correct figures to the commission as soon as possible. He also disclosed yesterday that the department has hired an outside consultant to review security at the 1,500-inmate medium-security prison operated by GEO Group Inc. of Boca Raton, Fla., since 2003. "We should be getting that report pretty shortly," said Johnson, adding that his department and GEO will follow any recommendations that may be made. Earlier this year, the department said 28 of the 41 cases of inmate drug seizures in the prison system in 2006 occurred at Lawrenceville. Also, the department said 14 cell phones were taken from Lawrenceville inmates, while 40 were found in all other prisons. GEO did not dispute the figures when asked about them by The Times-Dispatch. However, Johnson said yesterday that while Lawrenceville reports all of its incidents to department headquarters, investigators at the state-run prisons may refer some of them directly to the local commonwealth's attorney rather than to Richmond. Lawrenceville has had contraband problems. This year, two former Lawrenceville officers caught by the FBI with 14.6 grams of crack cocaine pleaded guilty to charges of conspiring to deliver drugs to inmates there. A former lieutenant at Lawrenceville is facing a charge of bribery stemming from allegations he took $2,000 from David E. Davis, a former inmate there. Davis, now at another prison, claims the lieutenant extorted the money, though Davis is also facing a bribery charge. Current and former employees and inmates at Lawrenceville say they do not believe Davis was an extortion victim. They said they believe he lost the money in a drug deal gone bad. State Del. Kenneth R. Melvin, D-Portsmouth, a crime commission member, said Johnson's explanation about the numbers may be correct, "but I get a feeling that it is not." The explanation, he said, "doesn't sit right with me. It doesn't smell right." "If we allow the Department Of Corrections to handle this in sort of a lazy way . . . I think we are letting down the people of Virginia," he said. He said he believed the crime commission has a responsibility to make sure the prisons are being run properly. Stolle said, "It's not something that we can ignore or that we'd want to ignore." He asked Johnson to send the commission the correct figures and the results of the outside study. "Then I think the committee needs to sit down and see if we're satisfied with it, and if we're not satisfied with it, then I think the committee has the authority and the ability to do an independent investigation to what's going on in Lawrenceville," he said. Stolle added, "Unless there's a wholesale failure of the [department] to keep statistics or reports, I think there's enough evidence to warrant at least a thorough examination of how Lawrenceville is conducting security."

March 23, 2007 Times-Dispatch
An inmate who alleged an officer at the Lawrenceville Correctional Center extorted money from him has himself been charged. A tentative trial date of April 19 has been set for David E. Davis, 38, on one count of bribery alleged to have occurred April 26 -- the same date on a $2,000 check he says he had written to former prison Lt. Harold Douglas Jr. Davis, 38, was indicted Feb. 27, less than three weeks after a story about the extortion allegation appeared in The Times-Dispatch and several months after he claimed he reported it to authorities and showed them the canceled check. The Department of Corrections acknowledged that an investigation had been conducted and the results forwarded to the prosecutor. Court records show Harold Douglas Jr. of Brodnax was also indicted on a bribery charge on Feb. 27 concerning an offense that occurred April 26, 2006. But as of yesterday, he had not been served, according to the Brunswick County Circuit Court clerk's office. Davis and Douglas are alleged to have violated a law against public officials taking or soliciting a bribe or for someone to make one. Court records show Davis appeared in court March 15 when the trial date was set. In a letter to The Times-Dispatch dated March 20, Davis wrote, "I did not 'bribery' anyone. I was extorted." He claimed the charge is an attempt by the Virginia Department of Corrections to cover up the extortion. Lawrenceville, operated by The GEO Group Inc. of Boca Raton, Fla., is the state's only private prison. GEO has said it cannot comment on the matter because it is under investigation. Corrections spokesman Larry Traylor also said yesterday that he could not comment. Douglas, reached by telephone this month, denied wrongdoing and said he was not aware of any indictment. Meanwhile, the Department of Corrections yesterday confirmed that a physician was assaulted at Lawrenceville, the state's only private prison, around 1 p.m. on Wednesday during a scheduled mental-health visit. Traylor, the spokesman, confirmed in an e-mail that, "The doctor was admitted to VCU Medical Center. I don't know the extent of his injuries, however, it is my understanding that he may be released as early as today." Traylor could not provide the physician's name or other details because the incident is under investigation. "Our investigation will be referred to the commonwealth's attorney." A spokeswoman for the medical center said she could not confirm or release any information without a name. More than twice as many drug interdictions were made at Lawrenceville last year than in all of the state's other prisons combined. A disproportionate number of cell phones were also seized from inmates at the prison.

March 18, 2007 Richmond Times-Dispatch
Last year, more than twice as many inmates were caught with drugs at the Lawrenceville Correctional Center as in all other Virginia prisons combined. State officials also said that more than one in five cell phones confiscated in prisons during the year came from Lawrenceville, the state's only privately operated prison, run by GEO Group Inc. of Boca Raton, Fla., since 2003. And in an unusual case, two former Lawrenceville officers caught by the FBI with 14.6 grams of crack cocaine pleaded guilty last month to charges of conspiring to deliver drugs to inmates there. The state disclosures and federal convictions support former Lawrenceville inmate David Eugene Davis' claims that marijuana, cocaine and cell phones were smuggled in by staff and readily available to Lawrenceville inmates for a price. "It's crazy over there. It's just unbelievable . . . it's wide open," he said in interview in January. "You can buy a cell phone for $150." State officials have confirmed they are investigating Davis' claim that a former lieutenant extorted $2,000 from him at the 1,536-inmate, medium-security facility in April. Davis has since been moved to an adjacent state prison. The Virginia Courts Case Infor- mation Web site shows that Harold Douglas Jr. of Brodnax was indicted on a bribery charge under a state law that makes it illegal for a public official to accept money in exchange for special favors. The alleged incident occurred April 26, 2006. Davis said the man who extorted the money from him was former Lt. Harold Douglas Jr. A copy of a cashier's check shows it was made payable to Douglas and was dated April 26, 2006. Brunswick County officials will not confirm that the Douglas who was indicted is the former Lawrenceville correctional officer because the indictment is sealed and the accused has not been served with the papers. Reached last month by phone, the former officer, who lives in Brodnax, denied any wrongdoing and said he quit the job of his own volition. This month, he denied knowledge of any indictment. Larry Traylor, spokesman for the Virginia Department of Corrections, wrote in an e-mail that "the department has been working diligently with GEO and the management of Lawrenceville to ensure that prudent and effective measures are implemented to address the frequency of both drugs and cell phones." Traylor said cell phones can be used by inmates to plot escapes, intimidate people and conduct other criminal activities. He said technological advances enabling smaller cell phones with minimal metal components are making detection more difficult. "Consequently, cell phones are becoming more easily smuggled into institutional environments. Cell phones are usually discovered during routine visitation and security searches," he wrote. GEO spokesman Pablo Paez, responding to questions by e-mail, said that in October the management at Lawrenceville "began a concentrated effort to reduce the interdiction of contraband and specifically illegal drugs into the institution." According to the Department of Corrections, 28 of the 41 cases of inmate drug seizures in the prison system in 2006 occurred at Lawrenceville. Also, the department said that 14 cell phones were taken from Lawrenceville inmates, while 40 were found in all other prisons. Asked if the large amount of contraband prompted the crackdown, or if the large amount of contraband was a result of the crackdown, Paez replied that Lawrenceville officials monitor inmates' drug-screening results. An increase was noted, he said, and steps were taken to fix the problem. "These interdiction efforts and the requirement to test offenders who show positive results more frequently may be a reason the number of positive drug screens at Lawrenceville were higher than those reported by [state] facilities." Paez also said, without providing specific details, that "earlier in 2006 the company was piloting a device that was touted as being able to detect cell phones. Lawrenceville was chosen as one of the pilot sites." "For a period of time additional staff, some not usually involved in these kinds of searches, participated in the detection of cell phones. This might account for some of the increased numbers of cell phones detected," he said. "GEO shares this problem with every other correctional entity in the country," Paez said. "The battle in the interdiction of contraband into a correctional facility is ongoing and ever-changing." Lawrenceville is a state prison operated by GEO under a five-year, $95 million contract that began in 2003. GEO -- then called Wackenhut Corrections Corp. won the contract from the Corrections Corporation of America, which opened the prison in 1997. Paez added that 34 inmates were caught by drug screenings and that officials also increased the searching of staff, visitors and vehicles, and increased the use of information gathered during investigations. According to Paez, the number of positive drug screens increased in October, November and December "but have shown a marked decrease during the period between January 1 and March 8, 2007." Two former Lawrenceville Correctional officers -- Theresa Hall Marrow, 48, of Victoria and Tiffany Nicole Goodrich, 23, of Lawrenceville -- pleaded guilty Feb. 26 to charges of possession with the intent to distribute more than 5 grams of crack cocaine and with conspiracy to distribute, according to the U.S. attorney's office. They were caught with the cocaine in December. The FBI witnessed a drug transaction in which Marrow and Goodrich received about half an ounce of cocaine base and $300 as payment to smuggle it into the prison. Authorities said they were arrested in Colonial Heights after they were paid to smuggle the cocaine but before they could do so. They are set to be sentenced May 25 and are facing five to 40 years in prison. Davis said inmates receive cash from visitors or others from outside the prison and use it to pay the officers, whom he said are underpaid. "The guards make $18,000 a year and the inmates are walking around with a thousand dollars in cash on them," he said. Paez said that a starting correctional officer at Lawrenceville is paid $8.65 an hour, which would be about $18,000 a year for 52 standard, 40-hour work weeks. Paez said that after their training period is over, officers make $9.70 an hour, which would be $20,176 for a standard work year. Traylor said that after the probationary period, a new state officer makes $2,445 a month, which would be an annual salary of $29,340, more than $9,000 a year more than their GEO counterparts. Paez said GEO has not had trouble recruiting staff, but he would not say what the turnover rate is at Lawrenceville or how many vacancies there are at the prison, citing security reasons. The prison is authorized to have a staff of 168 officers, Paez said.

February 7, 2007 Richmond Times-Dispatch
David Eugene Davis claims he was roused from his cell in the middle of the night by officers at the Lawrenceville Correctional Center last April. He was escorted to a small office and left there alone with the shift commander. The officer, Davis claims, demanded $2,000. Davis said the officer threatened to falsely charge him with assault if he did not pay. If he paid, the officer said Davis would be protected as long as he was at Lawrenceville, the state's only privately run prison. Davis said he paid. Then in September, Davis alleges, the officer -- who has since left the prison -- wanted $10,000 more. Davis said he refused. Days later, Davis reported being attacked by three inmates and robbed of cigarettes, according to a prison incident report. Davis decided to file a complaint, and he said authorities now have a copy of the $2,000 cashier's check from the Virginia Heartland Bank in Fredericksburg. A purported copy Davis gave the Richmond Times-Dispatch was made payable to and apparently cashed by the former officer on April 28. It was dated April 26, and beside the word "purpose" was written: "DAVID E DAVIS." Larry Traylor, a spokesman for the Virginia Department of Corrections, would not discuss the details of any particular investigation or the names of any individuals involved. However, he confirmed there is an investigation into allegations an officer extorted $2,000 at Lawrenceville. No Virginia Department of Corrections employee is believed to have ever been convicted of such an offense, Traylor said in an e-mail. The Lawrenceville Correctional Center is operated by The GEO Group Inc. of Boca Raton, Fla. GEO has a five-year contract to operate the 1,536-inmate, medium-security prison. The officer in question was a GEO employee, not a Department of Corrections employee. He is not being identified because he has not been charged in connection with Davis' allegations.

November 3, 2005 Free Lance-Star
A state prison inmate from Spotsylvania County was captured yesterday after a violent escape and car chase in Emporia, in southern Virginia. Jeffrey Bruce Shortal, 37, had been taken under guard to an Emporia medical center to receive physical therapy, Emporia Police Chief Keith Carr said. One correctional officer was struck on the head with a hand weight and robbed of his pistol, Carr said. Another was robbed at gunpoint. A short time later, a man approached two people at a senior citizens center about a half-block away. He tried, at gunpoint, to get their car keys, the Emporia chief said. When he wasn't successful, Carr said, the man went to a nearby furniture store. He confronted the manager in her office, where she was with customers. She was robbed of the keys to her Ford Explorer, Carr said. Officers in two Emporia police cars chased the Explorer east on U.S. 58, reaching speeds of 110 mph, Carr said. Shortly after the Explorer and police cars entered Southampton County, deputies there deployed "stop sticks," spikes that stick in a vehicle's tires and deflate them. The Explorer crashed, Carr said, and the driver exited unarmed and ran. He was captured "within about 30 seconds," Carr said.

March 22, 2003
NASHVILLE, Tenn., March 18 /PRNewswire-FirstCall/ -- Corrections Corporation of America (NYSE: CXW - News) announced today that it has received notification from the Commonwealth of Virginia, Department of Corrections that it has decided to assume operations of the 1,500-bed medium-security Lawrenceville Correctional Center, located in Lawrenceville, Virginia, upon the expiration of the Company's existing contract on March 22, 2003. The Commonwealth of Virginia has requested that the transfer of operations to the Department of Corrections become effective at 12:01 a.m. on Sunday, March 23, 2003. In addition, the Company has been notified that Virginia intends to award the contract to another private operator. The Company does not expect this termination to have a material impact on our financial results.  (Corrections Corporation)

March 3, 2003
Three high-ranking state officials have withdrawn from the selection of a private company to operate the Lawrenceville Correctional Center.  Secretary of Public Safety John W. Marshall, Corrections Director Gene M.  Johnson and Deputy Director John Jabe have recused themselves from handling the five-year, roughly $100 million contract - one of the largest involving the Virginia Department of Corrections.  Marshall's brother, Thurgood Marshall Jr., is on the board of directors of the Corrections Corporation of America, CCA, which currently holds the contract.  Johnson and Jabe backed out well into the selection process.  But while attending an American Correctional Association meeting last month, Johnson and Jabe met one of Jabe's former colleagues as the three were waiting for a ride to dinner, said Larry Traylor, a state Corrections Department spokesman.  The former colleague is a warden for Wackenhut Corrections Corp., one of the Lawrenceville bidders. Traylor said the warden was not involved in the procurement process, nor did the three discuss Lawrenceville.  Jabe introduced the warden, whom Traylor did not name, to two CCA employees as they waited for their ride. Johnson, Jabe and the warden then left for the dinner together.  On Jan. 21, a CCA representative questioned the propriety of Jabe dining with the Wackenhut employee. Jabe, and then Johnson, decided it was appropriate that they step out of the process because the question had been raised, said Traylor.  The contract to operate the prison expires March 22. The recusals further muddy the waters surrounding the bidding for the contract.  Sealed proposals were received by the department Dec. 11. Proposals were submitted by CCA, Wackenhut, Cornell Corrections Corp. and Correctional Services Corp.  In a Jan. 10 letter to the bidders, the department said that: "No contact with the director and the two deputy directors should be made by any offeror apart from this presentation until after the contract has been entered into with the successful offeror."  On Jan. 17, however, Russell Borass, private prison administrator for the department, wrote to bidders that a decision would not be announced until the week after the oral presentations.  On Feb. 3, Borass announced that the department would negotiate with Wackenhut for the contract. Wackenhut issued a news release saying so on Feb. 5.  But it appears the Corrections Department had ignored its own rules. The department quickly announced it would negotiate with two firms - Wackenhut and CCA. The department's request for proposals in October stated it would negotiate with two bidders.  Further complicating the issue is a requirement in the state appropriations act that Gov. Mark R. Warner compare the best bid with the Correction Department's estimate of what it would cost to do the job. The comparison would then be shared with two key legislators - the chairmen of the House Appropriations and Senate Finance committees.  Traylor said the department still expects to have a contract awarded by March 22. If not, the department could run the facility or there could be a short-term contract with a private firm.  (The Richmond Times-Dispatch)

Portsmouth City Jail
Portsmouth, Virginia
Prison Health Services

October 7, 2010 Virginia-Pilot
A Circuit Court jury awarded $25,000 in damages to a former Prison Health Services nurse who filed a defamation suit against Sheriff Bill Watson. The civil jury found that Adrienne West was defamed by Watson in comments he made in a story that ran in The Virginian-Pilot in June 2007. The story, about an investigation into drugs being brought into the jail, reported that Watson suspected a nurse, who he said at the time had since resigned. The nurse was not named, but West had resigned after being questioned during the investigation, according to testimony that came out during the three-day trial. She felt Watson's statements identified her as the nurse referenced in the story. Watson testified that he told the reporter "contractors" were suspected and did not specify a nurse. Watson's attorneys argued that the statement attributed to Watson was not a direct quotation. To prove defamation, they said the plaintiff had to show that Watson had used the exact words in the story.

December 15, 2009 The Virginia-Pilot
Former medical providers for the City Jail will pay $1.5 million to settle a lawsuit filed by the widow of a mentally ill man who died of pneumonia and dehydration six days after he was jailed on a misdemeanor charge. Joseph Combs, a 57-year-old Vietnam veteran and shipyard worker, was in the midst of a bipolar episode in June 2006 when he was put in jail because authorities couldn't find a bed for him in a mental facility. A deputy found the man dead, naked and lying in the feces he had repeatedly smeared on himself and the cells he was housed in. In 2007 Combs' widow, Granada, filed a lawsuit against Prison Health Services, the jail's medical provider at the time, other medical professionals, Sheriff Bill Watson and other individuals. Last month, the suit against Watson resulted in a mistrial. Jurors could not come to a unanimous verdict on whether the sheriff was negligent in Combs' death. On Monday, Judge Thomas Shadrick approved the settlement between Combs' estate and Prison Health Services; two of its employees, Dr. Shawne R. Bryant and Emma Floyd; and Dr. Luis F. Ignacio. Pat Nolan, a spokesman for the Nashville, Tenn.-based Prison Health Services, said they had no comment. Ignacio could not be reached Monday. The settlement order says only the defendants have offered together to pay the $1.5 million. The largest part of the settlement - $600,000 - will go to attorneys who represented the Combs family from the law firms of Allen, Allen, Allen & Allen and Bricker Anderson. Another $192,711.21 will cover the costs and expenses incurred. Combs' widow will receive $424,373.27, and his four adult children will each receive $70,728.88. Granada Combs testified that during the days leading up to her husband's incarceration he had stopped eating and taking care of himself. At some point, he told her to leave the house or he might hurt her. She sought help and eventually called 911. Officer Richard Overstreet testified that he responded to the call and was going into the apartment with her when he saw Combs inside with a knife. He said he appeared to be coming toward his wife. The officer said Combs continued to make angry comments about his wife and he considered him a risk to her. He said after mental health workers could not find a hospital that would take the man, a police sergeant told him to secure a warrant for a misdemeanor charge of threatening bodily harm. Combs died of pneumonia and dehydration. The medical examiner testified during the civil trial last month that people suffering from bipolar disorder will sometimes ignore thirst. Deputies and officers in the sheriff's office testified about Combs' bizarre behavior and how they had helped him shower and moved him to a clean cell after finding smeared feces everywhere. They also testified about asking doctors, nurses and a worker from the city's Behavioral Health Services Department to examine him. Lawyers for the sheriff contend that it was Prison Health Services and the medical providers who were responsible for making decisions related to an inmate's health care. The case between the sheriff and Combs' estate is scheduled to be tried again in early May.

June 20, 2008 The Virginian-Pilot
A woman who worked as a nurse for a health care contractor at the city jail has sued Sheriff Bill Watson, charging that he defamed her in comments that were published in The Virginian-Pilot. Adrienne West sued in Portsmouth Circuit Court earlier this month, naming Watson and the Portsmouth Sheriff's Office as defendants. She is represented by attorney Jason C. Roper. In an interview, Watson called West's suit "frivolous" and said she had "nothing to stand on here." He said he had never mentioned the woman by name. West's suit says that when she reported to work on June 2, 2007, she was met by police detectives investigating illegal drugs in the jail. The suit says she cooperated with them because she had "nothing to hide." She was searched and questioned, and she agreed to take a polygraph exam. She was "extremely nervous" and the result was inconclusive; the test was given again and she passed. She consistently denied bringing drugs into the jail, her suit says. Her complaint says that the detectives were satisfied. Watson told her as she left he knew the results and "not to worry about it," her suit says. Watson said Thursday he didn't recall ever meeting West. West felt singled out and decided she no longer wanted the job and resigned, her suit says. Weeks later, the Pilot published two articles that contained statements attributed to Watson, now attached as exhibits to her suit. One reported that an inmate had told Watson that contractors were bringing drugs into the jail, and that Watson suspected two former employees, including a Prison Health Services nurse who had resigned. The other article reported the sheriff said two contractors he suspected of bringing drugs to the jail no longer worked there. West was not identified by name. Her suit says her identity was clear to people who knew her. It says people asked her about the articles and asked if she was a drug dealer. She says Watson's statements were defamatory. West seeks $3 million in compensatory damages and $1 million in punitive damages.

June 14, 2007 The Virginian-Pilot
Concerned that there might be drugs inside the city's jail, Sheriff Bill Watson used dogs earlier this month to search some inmates and deputies inside the facility. Though none of the roughly 35 deputies and inmates on duty was found to have drugs during the June 1 search, the dogs detected narcotic scents on two deputies, Watson said. Officers can pick up drug scents on their clothes during the course of duty, he said. However, later that night in an unrelated incident, one of Watson's deputies was arrested on charges of drug possession in Norfolk. The search, Watson said, was the first time he has brought in dogs to look for drugs on inmates and deputies at the jail since he took over as sheriff more than 18 months ago. Random searches will occur from now on, Watson said. Norfolk Sheriff Bob McCabe's office provided two K-9 dogs as a courtesy that night. They looked for evidence of drugs at the jail for about five hours, said Bonita Harris, a spokeswoman for McCabe's office. A small amount of contraband, ranging from cell phones to drugs, has made its way into the jail for years, Watson said. The investigation began nearly a month ago, after Watson received a tip from an inmate. The inmate told Watson that some contractors working inside the jail were bringing small amounts of marijuana and crack cocaine into the facility. Watson said he suspected that one of the contractors was a nurse who worked for Prison Health Services. She has resigned, he said. The other contractor worked for the food service company that supplies the jail, Watson said. He no longer works there, he said. Neither contractor has been charged.

December 1, 2006 The Virginian-Pilot
Joseph Combs was sent to the City Jail in June and died there six days later. Combs, 57 , died of severe dehydration and acute pneumonia, with bipolar disorder contributing, according to the medical examiner. Earlier this week, Portsmouth City Attorney Tim Oksman requested a federal civil rights investigation into Combs’ death. He wrote a letter to representatives of the U.S. Department of Justice and the Federal Bureau of Investigation , asking that they “determine whether any civil or criminal investigation is called for by either of your agencies.” Norfolk FBI spokesman Phil Mann said the department has received the letter and is reviewing it to determine whether to open an investigation. Oksman began to look into the case after being contacted by Combs’ widow, Granada Combs . She said in an interview last week that she sought medical attention for her husband after he was taken into custody on June 22. “This should not have happened,” she said. “His death could have been avoided had they taken him to a hospital.” In the past, her husband, who worked as a painter at Norfolk Naval Shipyard , had repeatedly been hospitalized for mental health treatment for weeks at a time, she said. Police and the city are conducting separate investigations into his death. The City Jail is run by Sheriff Bill Watson , whom Oksman copied on his letter to federal authorities. After several calls to Watson’s office for comment, Lt. Col. John Gomokey returned a phone call. He said the sheriff said to contact Prison Health Services Inc. , the jail’s medical contractor. “His position right now is that PHS needs to handle that,” Gomokey said. “It was their thing.” Emma Floyd , director of nursing for Prison Health Services at Portsmouth City Jail , said: “I don’t know why he would ask you to contact me.” Asked about Combs, Floyd said she remembered the case. But she declined to comment further and said to contact Prison Health Services’ corporate office in Tennessee . “Our mission is to provide quality health care to all the patients we serve,” company spokeswoman Susan Morgenstern wrote in an e-mail, responding to Oksman’s letter. “Anytime a patient dies, we are deeply saddened, and extend our heartfelt sympathy to the patient’s family and friends.” She added that, because of confidentiality laws, Prison Health Services can’t talk about details of the care provided to a patient. But she said the company would cooperate fully if there is an investigation.

Richmond City Justice Center
Jun 3, 2018
Medical contractor ends relationship with Richmond City Justice Center following poor review
Sheriff Antionette Irving is rushing to retain a medical contractor for the Richmond City Justice Center after the private company responsible for providing treatment to the jail's 900-plus inmates backed out of its contract following a critical review. Correctional Medical Care Inc. gave notice in April, only nine months after coming aboard, that it would end its three-year, $20.5 million agreement with the Richmond Sheriff’s Office on July 14. The decision came shortly after a poor review Irving’s administration gave the contractor. It cited, among other issues, CMC double-charging inmates for medication and not paying outside vendors on time. The departure leaves the facility in need of its fourth private health care provider in about seven years, at a time when state lawmakers concerned about the standard of care for inmates have launched reforms intended to boost jail oversight. It also leaves the city vulnerable to paying a higher rate for services under an emergency procurement process designed to streamline the search, according to Irving. CMC declined to answer questions about the review or its decision to pull out of the agreement. In a written statement, the company's vice president Shane Sunday said it terminated the relationship with the jail because of “contractual disagreements – reimbursements that were not made by the City – related to the different administrations and not any performance concerns.” “The review provided by (Irving) addressed some clerical and operational items that met the standards of the previous administration but were not in line with the expectations of Sheriff Irving," Sunday stated. "While we did not agree with all these changes, we worked swiftly to bring the operation in line with these expectations.” Most of Virginia’s local and regional jails work with private medical providers. Thirty-two of 40 facilities that responded to a 2017 survey conducted by the state's Joint Commission on Health Care said they contracted out most or all health services for inmates. In the region, both Chesterfield County and Henrico County work with contractors to provide some medical services or staffing in the facilities they run. Chesterfield moved toward the practice to help with hard-to-fill nursing jobs, said Sheriff Karl Leonard. The county also contracted with CMC beginning in April 2017. There's another benefit for jails to contract, he said. “The cost to localities – it’s cheaper to contract because you’re paying for a service," and not the benefits that are required for employees. The Richmond sheriff’s office cycled through private medical contractors under C.T. Woody, Irving’s predecessor. In 2011, the former sheriff retained Tennessee-based Correct Care Solutions for a three-year, $4 million contract to provide services in the old city jail, where conditions were blamed for inmate deaths. The decision consolidated existing medical services under one contract and was intended to save money on transporting inmates to the VCU Medical Center when they required care, Woody told the Times-Dispatch at the time. When the new jail opened in 2014, it included an 18-bed, in-house medical facility. Woody brought in Birmingham, Ala.-based NaphCare, Inc. for a three-year, $6.2 million contract to provide medical services beginning in November 2014. Despite on-site care, inmates continued to die in the city's new facility, resulting in legal action against Woody and NaphCare, Inc.. Each was named in a $20.4 million wrongful death suit filed by the mother of an inmate who died in 2016, Gregory Lee Hill. Woody retained Correctional Medical Care last year. The company began working in the jail on July 1, 2017. Irving, whose platform as a candidate included a promise to improve healthcare and mental health services in the jail, gave the critical review in mid-March, three and a half months after she took office. Issues that surfaced included CMC and its subcontractors not paying bills to outside providers, such as the VCU Health System, on time. The outstanding balance as of mid-April was $2.3 million, according to figures provided by the Sheriff's office. Some of the outstanding balances date back to last July, Irving said. Inmates have filed 283 formal complaints against CMC since the company began working in the jail last July, according to Irving’s office. Irving said she had personally heard complaints from inmates about the quality of the contractor's services. The Richmond Times-Dispatch has requested an opportunity to review the complaints. “A lot of it came due to complaints to the inmates or making requests that they had not been provided service,” Irving said. “Inmates notified me or verbally had those conversations with me. Once I came in if they would see me in the hall they would ask about medical treatment, different services that they needed.” Irving's administration also discovered that CMC routinely double charged inmates for medications they required, and charged for medicines that should not have cost anything, she said. The mistake occurred 270 times between last November and the end of May, according to sheriff’s office data. Irving’s office provided information demonstrating that jail staff had attempted to remedy the errors. Among other issues outlined in the review: CMC did not provide full monthly staffing reports to Irving’s administration notifying the sheriff's office of personnel changes within the time frame specified under the contract, nor did it promptly remove access to the jail's medical facility for former employees, Irving said. CMC did not provide mental health or CPR training to the jail staff during Irving’s tenure, she said. The contractor also did not implement a "telemedicine" system to facilitate audio and video conferencing for medical or mental health consultations with inmates; the contract required the system to be set up within 60 days of CMC entering the jail. The review rates the contractor’s performance as “poor,” and states Irving’s administration would not recommend renewing the agreement, a stance Irving said she changed after CMC took steps to address some of the issues following the review. “We were moving forward to ensure that we could make this work … We were not terminating the contract,” Irving said. CMC dispatched a senior administrator to the jail and hired a new director of nursing and health services administrator, who Irving said began to get a handle on things. Soon after, though, CMC informed Irving it would terminate the contract in 90 days. A memo dated April 23 notified the contractor’s employees who work in the jail of the decision, though it does not explain why. “We look forward to working with the administrative team and staff to ensure a seamless transition,” the notice states. Irving said her office is working to secure a new contractor, and has conducted interviews with four entities. City procurement policy does not require an emergency call for vendors to be publicly advertised until after a bid is awarded. While the search for a replacement contractor is still ongoing, Irving said there is a “strong probability” the jail’s medical costs will exceed the $8.2 million the City Council budgeted for fiscal year that begins July 1, meaning the sheriff's office will likely have to seek additional funding from the Council to cover higher costs.

South Hampton


April 24, 2003
Developers proposing to build two 1,024-bed prisons in Virginia are considering Southampton County as a site for one of them.  The plan submitted to the Virginia Department of Corrections also includes options to expand the Deerfield Correctional Center in Southampton and St. Brides Correctional Center in Chesapeake.  The state's prison population, currently 30,950, is expected to rise in coming years, due to longer sentences imposed since the abolition of parole in the mid-1990s.  Corrections officials predict they will need 2,000 to 3,000 new prison beds by 2006.  However, declining tax collections have strained the state budget and delayed efforts to raise the estimated $334 million needed for new construction.  The development team making the proposal comes from Centex, a Texas-based Fortune 500 company with an affiliate headquartered in Fairfax, and investment bankers Lehman Brothers and Morgan Keegan.  The companies are not releasing details about their plans to finance the projects.  However, the businesses are building three prisons in North Carolina that will be leased back to the state for 20 years before the structures would become publicly owned.  The North Carolina work is highlighted in the proposal the companies have submitted to Virginia.  Prison officials are giving competing developers until May 8 to submit plans before reviewing the proposal.  Southampton County already has three state prisons.  Southampton Correctional Center, which houses about 650 inmates, was nearly mothballed last year as a cost-saving measure, but state leaders backed down when the community rallied to save prison jobs.  Corrections officials connected then that the prisons would be needed a few years.  An adjacent but separate "reception center" for new inmates holds another 180 inmates.  The remaining prison, Deerfield, is home to about 500 geriatric inmates.  Developers have listed Southampton as one of six counties where a new prison would be feasible.  Reggie W. Gilliam, chairman of the Southampton Board of Supervisors, said he would welcome the 600-bed expansion at Deerfield included in the plan.  He said county officials know little about other parts of the proposal, but they will be briefed by prison officials on April 28.  The St. Brides expansion is identified by developers as an optional addition to their plan.  The state is scheduled to finish a 352-bed addition next spring, but has no funding to achieve its plans for demolishing the original 19963 prison and replacing it with modern dormitories and a multipurpose building that could include a gym and music room.  The capacity is now 575.  State plans call for expanding it to between 1,000 and 1,2000 beds.  North Carolina's prison-building program has attracted some criticism from a former state treasurer and consumer groups, who argued that the deal was too expensive and that it was being used to increase public debt without a voter referendum.  State officials created a nonprofit corporation to issue $225 million in bonds for the projects.  North Carolina is expected to pay $370 million over the next 20 years through a lease agreement.  State officials concluded that they are saving money because prisoners are being built faster.  Legislators are now considering a proposal for Centex to build another three prisons.  Virginia pays a private company to manage one of its prisons, located in Lawrenceville.  However, the state has never built a prison under a lease-to-own arrangement.  State leaders passed a law last year to encourage developers to submit proposals for constructing government buildings under lease-to-own and similar types of public-private partnerships.  The law helps developers qualify for tax incentives that make the projects more attractive to the private sector.  In response, Centex and another Texas developer, Lincoln Property Co., have submitted proposals for renovating and building new state government offices in and around Capitol Square in Richmond.  Some local governments also are taking advantage of the new law.  Falls Church and Stafford County are considering proposals to build schools through public-private partnerships.  (The Virginian-Pilot)

Virginia Beach Jail
Virginia Beach, Virginia
Conmed Health Management (formerly run by Correctional Medical Services)

August 18, 2011 The Virginian-Pilot
The family of a man who died at the Virginia Beach jail has filed a wrongful death suit against the sheriff and the jail medical staff. The case alleges shoddy medical care, accusations similar to those raised by the family of another deceased jail inmate, Jacquelynn Diane Schwartz. Douglas P. Poole entered the jail Oct. 29, 2010, to serve a 10-day sentence for driving with a suspended driver's license. Five days later he was rushed to the hospital, where he died. He was 54. When he arrived in the jail, he told a nurse that he suffered from diabetes and hypertension and that he required certain medications, according to the suit. It says he didn't receive any meds for four days, and he was given insulin but nothing to control his hypertension. The afternoon of Nov. 3, Poole reported to jail staff that he was had severe pain in an eye. He was unsteady on his feet and sweating. He then collapsed and struck his head on a table, the suit says. He was taken to the infirmary, where the medical staff inferred "that he was malingering," the lawsuit states. When he was taken back to his cell, a deputy, a doctor and nurses told other inmates that Poole was "faking blindness," it says. Poole later reported that he felt nauseated and he again fainted and remained unconscious for 15 minutes. When he tried to rise, he struck his head on a toilet and lost consciousness again, the suit says. "The inmates in his cell block began frantically banging on the window and the deputies only then removed him from the block," the lawsuit says. At the infirmary, Poole's blood pressure was recorded as 197 over 90, which is high. Jail staff called 911, and Poole was taken to the nearby emergency room in handcuffs. He was transferred to Virginia Beach General Hospital, where he was diagnosed with a brain hemorrhage. He was declared brain-dead Nov. 4 and pronounced dead Nov. 7, according to the lawsuit and his obituary that appeared in The Pilot. The lawsuit, which seeks $5 million, alleges "deliberate indifference" to Poole's condition by the medical and jail staff. His family is suing in federal court under the Eighth and 14th amendments, which prohibit cruel and unusual punishment and deprivation of life and liberty, respectively. The suit, filed by Poole's sister, Evelyn Sawyer of Norfolk, names as defendants Sheriff Ken Stolle; Conmed Healthcare Management, which runs the jail's medical facility; and several members of the medical staff.

November 21, 2010 The Virginia-Pilot
Paul Lanteigne got right to work for his new company. Within days of stepping down as Virginia Beach sheriff in December, he began exchanging e-mails and documents with former subordinates about a multi million-dollar contract that would soon be up for grabs. Some of the information high-ranking officials in the Sheriff's Office passed onto their former boss was available to anyone. But some was not, such as drafts of bid specifications for the contract, which Lanteigne received weeks before other competitors, e-mails and other documents obtained by The Virginian-Pilot show. Lanteigne's exchanges - friendly, familiar and informative - were with the same officials who would ultimately write and award the contract. At stake was the jail's most lucrative private work: providing medical services for inmates. Five companies submitted bids for the job. Lanteigne's company, Conmed Healthcare Management Inc., and Correctional Medical Services were short-listed as finalists. In September, with Lanteigne on board as a senior director for governmental affairs, Conmed prevailed, landing the Beach's $3.5 million-per-year contract. Conmed is a publicly traded company operating in seven states and expanding in Virginia. In 2008, it won an $18 million contract in Chesapeake. Conmed recently bid on the Norfolk jail medical contract but didn't get it. St. Louis-based Correctional Medical Services is privately owned and has contracts in 19 states. The company had the contract for the Beach jail 25 years, including the 10 years Lanteigne was sheriff. Current Sheriff Kenneth Stolle, elected to the post last year with Lanteigne's support, said he didn't know the former sheriff was getting the information about the contract from department staffers but that no laws were broken. He said he did not get involved in the decision because of his long time friendship with Lanteigne. "I'm not happy about what took place," Stolle said. "It allows the perception that there was inside information or a stream of information that Paul was getting that was not available to everybody else." Conmed, using many former Correctional Medical Services' staffers, took over in Virginia Beach on Oct. 1. The three-year contract could be worth up to $17.5 million if two years of optional extensions are granted. In late October, after The Pilot started asking questions about the information Lanteigne received, Stolle changed the department's policy to make the sheriff the single point of contact while bid documents are being developed. He said in practice that means all information shared with one potential bidder would be shared with others. Procurement experts interviewed by The Pilot agreed that providing early bid specifications to one company doesn't violate Virginia law but said it's not consistent with industry standards and discouraged the practice because it could provide competitive advantage.

September 10, 2010 The Virginia-Pilot
Less than a year after stepping down as sheriff, Paul Lanteigne helped land a $9 million contract to provide health care for inmates in the jail he used to run. The company the former sheriff works for was selected for the contract, even though its bid was slightly more than the proposal of the company that currently provides the services. Before stepping down as sheriff at the end of last year, Lanteigne lined up a job with Conmed Health Management, a health services provider that had tried unsuccessfully to do business with Virginia Beach in the past. Lanteigne became a senior director of governmental affairs for Conmed and helped prepare the bid, which resulted in the approximately $9 million, three-year contract to provide health care for the city's 1,350 inmates. The company was recommended by a panel appointed by Virginia Beach Sheriff Ken Stolle, said John McCon-nell, city procurement services coordinator. Stolle and Lanteigne have long been political allies and friends. Correctional Medical Services Inc., the current provider, has worked in the Beach jail for 25 years. That company was the low bidder for the new contract by about $20,000 a year, Stolle said. Conmed was deemed the better applicant, Stolle said. "To be completely candid, Paul had a huge advantage," Stolle said. "He knew exactly what we needed." Had Lanteigne been a city employee, he would've been prohibited by city ordinance for one year from accepting a job with a company that does business with the city. Because he was sheriff, a constitutional officer in Virginia, the rule doesn't apply, Deputy City Attorney Roderick Ingram said. Lanteigne sought a legal opinion from the city attorney's office in June 2009 before taking the job with Conmed. Lanteigne, who was sheriff for 10 years, said he applied his understanding of the Virginia Beach jail to help Conmed prepare the bid. "I certainly can't take the knowledge I have and erase the slate," he said. "I certainly used that knowledge." Lanteigne said he works for Conmed full time from home. He wouldn't disclose his salary other than to call it "a very fair wage." He made about $150,000 a year as sheriff. He did some paid consulting in Louisiana for Conmed after July 1, 2009, while still in office. Stolle, a former state senator elected sheriff in November, said he didn't take part in the bid-review process because he and Lanteigne are friends. "I didn't want there to be any impression that I was trying to steer the contract to Paul," he said. " I didn't want there to be appearance of collusion between us." Lanteigne supported Stolle in his run for sheriff, giving him $10,000 in campaign contributions, according to the Virginia Public Access Project, which tracks money in politics. Conmed gave $2,000 to Stolle. Stolle hired Lanteigne's daughter, Ashley, who had previously been his legislative aide, as a public information officer. Her salary is $53,500. Stolle said the contract went to Conmed even though the company wasn't the low bidder partially because Conmed offered extra psychiatric services that eventually will make the company the cheaper option. He also said Conmed is more experienced with the upcoming switch to electronic medical records, which is part of the contract. The city is not obligated to go with the lowest bid. Other factors, including predicted quality of service, are taken into account, Deputy City Attorney Ingram said.

Virginia Department of Corrections
GEO Group, Prison Health Services (formerly run by Correctional Medical Services)
Mar 15, 2013

Virginia has rejected unsolicited bids by two companies to operate a state facility that detains violent sex offenders for treatment after their sentences are completed. Documents obtained by The Associated Press show that state officials who evaluated the proposals concluded that GEO Group, a private prisons operator based in Boca Raton, Fla., focused too much on incarceration and not enough on treatment. Liberty Healthcare Corp. of Bala Cynwyd, Pa., scored better on treatment but would have charged the state $2.4 million a year more than it is spending to run the facility itself. Therapy is a key issue because courts have ruled that the indefinite commitment of sex offenders after they have served their prison time is constitutional as long as the goal is treatment, not punishment. The state Department of Behavioral Health and Developmental Services received the GEO and Liberty proposals in 2011 under a 2002 Virginia law authorizing public-private partnerships. "Following the thorough evaluation that was conducted of the unsolicited bids, DBHS found the existing operation is comparable to or better than the proposals and there was not a long-term financial advantage to the Commonwealth," department spokeswoman Meghan McGuire said in an email. She said that while officials appreciated the bids, they concluded that privatization of the Virginia Center for Behavioral Rehabilitation in Burkeville at this time "is not the best direction for Virginia." The treatment center was originally built to house 300 patients in private rooms, but the 2011 General Assembly ordered the department to double-bunk half the rooms to expand capacity to 450. McGuire said the center now houses 327 and is projected to exceed capacity by 2016. The department informed the companies of the decision in January, but the development went unnoticed by opponents of the privatization proposals. Carla Peterson, executive director of the inmate advocacy group Virginia CURE, said she was "pleasantly surprised." "We always think it's a good thing when they don't privatize a prison, and that's what this is — a prison — no matter what they say," Peterson said in a telephone interview. "Our members felt that if a for-profit organization runs it, nobody's ever going to get out of there. I'm pleased to hear it's not going to happen." Mary Davey Devoy, an advocate for reform of Virginia's sex offender laws, said she was especially pleased to hear that GEO's bid was rejected. Some inmates at a facility in Florida have complained they are not getting proper care, which prompted protests when GEO recently acquired naming rights for the football stadium at Florida Atlantic University. "They are a business through and through," Devoy said. "They are not about rehabilitation. If they don't have bodies in the beds, they don't have a business." GEO did not respond to a message seeking comment. Kenneth Carabello, vice president of Liberty, said the company appreciated the opportunity to bid but understood the state's decision. "There were some pricing structure impediments we kind of ran into, and we certainly understand the budgetary situation and the state's need to be as efficient as possible," said Carabello, who added that Liberty would be open to trying again but has no immediate plans to do so. Letters to the companies by James W. Stewart III, commissioner of Virginia's behavioral health department, informing them of the department's decision did not specify why the bids were rejected. However, written evaluations of the proposals obtained by the AP showed Liberty's proposal was too costly and GEO's was too corrections-oriented. "Lack of emphasis on rehab treatment program," the analysis of GEO's proposal said of the only other civil commitment program for sex offenders operated by the company. Another notation said the program was "more correctional than therapy related." The department's comments on Liberty's proposal were generally more positive, noting that the company has 14 years of relevant experience and that most of its executives have a clinical background. "Evidence of skills necessary to operate facility," the report says. Officials noted in the documents that the weakness in Liberty's proposal was cost. It would have charged $29.7 million each year to run the facility, even though Virginia spends less — $27.3 million. GEO's bid was about $22.9 million. The department has no plans to solicit bids for operating the Burkeville facility, McGuire said.

July 27, 2012 AP
Eleven organizations sent a letter to Virginia’s governor Monday opposing offers by two companies to operate a state facility that detains violent sex offenders for treatment after their sentences are completed. State officials are considering privatization as a way to control costs of the rapidly expanding civil commitment program at the Virginia Center for Behavioral Rehabilitation in Burkeville. The state spends about $97,000 annually to treat each offender at the 300-bed facility — more than quadruple the cost of housing a prisoner. The program’s budget has increased tenfold since it started in 2004. A report late last year by the Joint Legislative Audit and Review Commission, the General Assembly’s investigative arm, projected the number of committed offenders could reach 600 by 2016 unless something is done to slow the program’s growth. The facility now houses 289, and preparations for double-bunking are under way. “What is currently an overcrowded situation at VCBR could become dramatically worse if run by a company that increases its profits at the expense of programs and operations, including security, in the facility,” the coalition of civil rights, labor, criminal justice reform and religious organizations said in its letter to Gov. Bob McDonnell. The organizations said the companies that have submitted proposals have had problems running some facilities elsewhere. “DBHDS is taking a comprehensive look at the two private companies who proposed to run VCBR, including their successes and challenges, to determine whether privatization of the program is the right fit for Virginia,” department spokeswoman Meghan McGuire said in an email. The department received the unsolicited proposals under the state’s Public-Private Education and Infrastructure Act, which does not impose any deadline for making a decision. McGuire said that if the agency decides to proceed, its recommendation goes the Public-Private Partnership Advisory Commission. Virginia’s civil commitment program began its drastic growth spurt in 2006, when lawmakers expanded from four to 28 the number of crimes that would make an offender eligible. At the same time, the state began using a risk assessment questionnaire to measure the likelihood that offenders will commit another sex crime. Since then, the number of those determined eligible for commitment jumped from about 7 percent of all sex offenders being released from prison to about 25 percent, according to the JLARC report. The report said Virginia’s process is so flawed that some offenders could needlessly spend years locked up while others who tell officials they are likely to offend again are released. Tracy Velazquez, executive director of the Justice Policy Institute, said Virginia officials should examine their policies rather than just turn the facility over to a private operator. “There are certainly better and less expensive ways to protect public safety than the questionable practice of civil commitment,” Velazquez said. “Locking people up forever and letting people make money off of it is not a solution.”

April 30, 2012 The Washington Times
Virginia is considering privatizing its sole facility fully devoted to treating sexually violent predators, but the two companies in the running have a history of multimillion-dollar legal settlements and illicit behavior that includes a charge of "deliberate indifference" to sexual misconduct between staff and youths at a facility. The Department of Behavioral Health and Developmental Services is evaluating proposals from private prison-operating companies GEO Care Inc. and Liberty Healthcare Corp. to take over the Virginia Center for Behavioral Rehabilitation in Burkeville because of an increase in the number of offenders and concerns about costs. GEO, a subsidiary of the Boca Raton, Fla.-based GEO Group Inc., last year sent the state an unsolicited proposal to consider privatization of the center, a psychiatric treatment facility for sex offenders who have served their prison sentences. Liberty, based in Bala Cynwyd, Pa., submitted one after the state began reviewing the GEO proposal. Meghan McGuire, a spokeswoman with the Department of Behavioral Health and Developmental Services, said Virginia is "taking a comprehensive look at the private companies who proposed to run [the rehabilitation center] as we determine whether privatization of the program is the right fit for Virginia." Despite a long history of operating such facilities, the two companies have dubious records in other states. The U.S. Department of Justice in March released a scathing report after an inquiry into the Walnut Grove Youth Correctional Facility in Mississippi, previously run by GEO. The state recently announced that it is seeking new management for Walnut Grove, as well as two other private prisons run by GEO. The Justice Department report concluded that the state was violating the rights of the youths incarcerated in the facility and found "deliberate indifference" to high incidences of sexual misconduct between youths and staff. A consent decree entered in March removed everyone younger than 17 from the facility and stipulated that no youths could be placed in solitary confinement in the state. Pablo Paez, a spokesman for GEO, declined to comment on the investigation into the facility but pointed out that GEO did not assume management of it until late 2010 and has since made "significant improvements." Mental health and medical staffs at the facility are employed by contract and are not GEO or state employees. Troubled histories -- GEO settled for $3 million in 2010 after a class-action lawsuit was filed in 2008 alleging unconstitutional strip searches at a Pennsylvania jail. The family of an inmate beaten to death at a GEO-run facility in Texas sued in 2006, and was awarded about $50 million by a jury, though the case ultimately was settled out of court. "They understaff, they underpay, there's high turnover," said Ken Kopczynski, executive director of the Private Corrections Working Group, which serves to provide information about problems of prison privatization. "It's a business model - they expect a certain amount of suits, they expect a certain amount of fines." GEO operates Virginia's one private prison - the 1,500-bed Lawrenceville Correctional Center. Liberty has had ignominious incidents of its own. A massive investigation and report from Florida's Department of Children and Families office of inspector general uncovered an incident at the Florida Civil Commitment Center - then run by Liberty - in 2004. A whistleblower investigation found that the facility's safety director and safety manager erased or destroyed video evidence after a resident - placed in solitary confinement after threatening to burn a female worker - was then inexplicably allowed to roam the building, after which he climbed onto the roof and jumped off. In 2006, Florida chose GEO to take the reins away from Liberty, and the company opened a 720-bed facility in 2009. But the state has consistently had to subsidize the company because the number of residents hasn't increased as quickly as projected because of changes in the state's civil commitment process. Officials with GEO Group and Liberty said it was not their policy to comment on ongoing procurement processes or proposals they submit before they become a matter of public record. All told, between 2004 and 2010, GEO contributed more than $100,000 to state politicians and groups in Virginia, including more than $30,000 to Gov. Bob McDonnell's gubernatorial and attorney general campaigns. Liberty contributed a total of $5,500 to various politicians in 2002. Ms. McGuire said the department is examining the pluses and minuses of the two companies. "We are looking into their successes and problems in other states as well as scrutinizing their responses to the very thorough request for submission we developed," she said. Mixed bag -- Despite their issues, the companies are still accredited, and may be able to help Virginia ameliorate its looming overcrowding issues. Savings for the state from fully privatizing the facility, if any, are yet to be determined, Ms. McGuire said, adding that the agency cannot comment on the proposals until negotiations are finished. Both companies claim they can double the 300-bed capacity at the facility at no additional capital cost to the state. The population at the center, currently around 280, is expected to hit 450 by 2014, and it costs the state about $91,000 per prisoner a year. Florida staff has reported that privatizing the facility has made its program more cost-effective. It costs the state about $38,300 per patient annually at the GEO-run facility. Virginia expects its cost per patient to decline to about $62,000 by 2015 as its population jumps as a result of a plan to house two occupants instead of one to a room, called double-bunking. The Virginia Center for Behavioral Rehabilitation is retrofitting the facility to prepare for potential double-bunking. Some residents have sent letters to Attorney General Kenneth T. Cuccinelli II saying they will sue the state if they are double-bunked. GEO has delivered sex-offender treatment consistent with Practice Standards and Guidelines for the Treatment of Adult Male Sexual Abusers of the Association for the Treatment of Sexual Abusers, according to the unsolicited proposal it sent to Virginia. Liberty told Virginia officials in its proposal that it is planning to partner with Gilbane Development Co. and the McLean-based Davis Carter Scott architectural firm to improve the facility. Gilbane developed the Virginia Center for Behavioral Rehabilitation, and Davis Carter Scott designed it. But any potential gaps, loopholes or cost increases when housing the most violent of sexual predators is a tough sell to the public, Mr. Kopczynski said. "It's a standard business model - you get away with what you can get away with," he said. "They're there to make a profit. John and Jane Q. Public don't care about inmates."

May 22, 2006 Washington Post
COMPANIES THAT provide for-profit medical care to prison inmates have grown enormously in the past couple of decades, spurred by booming prison and jail populations that have strained the ability of states and cities to cope. The medical treatment they provide is generally shielded from outside scrutiny, and inmate patients are a largely powerless and voiceless constituency. That gives rise to the potential for abuse and substandard treatment without meaningful redress. Prison Health Services, the nation's largest private supplier of inmate health services, provides care and treatment to about a third of Virginia's 31,000 inmates. The company has been the target of many lawsuits, in Virginia and in other states and municipalities. In Florida, Alabama, South Carolina and a number of large cities, the firm has been accused by inmates' families, courts, and local, state and federal officials of providing shoddy, neglectful and at times harmful treatment. Last year, in a series of articles, the New York Times documented repeated instances in which treatment provided by Prison Health Services was substandard and, in some cases, led to unnecessary deaths in New York jails and prisons. In a recent report focusing on Virginia, the Associated Press quoted several inmates who said that the treatment they have received -- or failed to receive despite repeated requests -- was life-threatening. One of the inmates interviewed by the AP, Marguerite Brown, is at Fluvanna Correctional Center for Women in Troy, Va., home to more than half the state's female inmates. Ms. Brown, 51, said she told prison nurses repeatedly that she was bleeding from fibroid tumors, but she was given nothing more than vitamins for anemia. Eventually she was rushed to the emergency room for a blood transfusion, she said. At the heart of some of the criticism leveled at Prison Health Services has been the charge that its pursuit of profit has led it to scrimp on the provision of decent health care. The company has denied that. But the breadth of its problems suggests that the company would benefit from ongoing and intensive monitoring to ensure that it provides adequate treatment. In a number of states, Prison Health Services and other for-profit prison health providers are under the scrutiny of a court-appointed monitor or a state agency legislatively established for that purpose. But in Virginia, Prison Health Services is watched over only by the state Corrections Department's own health services operation. That is insufficient, especially given the well-publicized problems elsewhere. Inmates may lack broad public sympathy, but they are nonetheless entitled to a decent level of medical attention. To ensure that is provided consistently over time, Virginia needs to intensify its vigilance.

May 19, 2006 The Roanoke Times
A medical contractor's nationwide track record should prod Virginia to examine such services. When we, the people of Virginia, lock up people convicted of crimes, we are responsible for their humane treatment. To ignore that responsibility is to risk doing worse to inmates in our prisons and jails than many of these convicted criminals have ever done to others. If we are indifferent to the well-being of those under our power and control, we erode principles of justice, diminish our capacity for mercy and become a more brutal society. Virginians should keep that in mind in light of a news report that 330 state prisoners filed medical grievances in 2004 against a health care contractor that provides medical services to about a third of the state's 31,000 inmates. Prison Health Services has a troublesome record of substandard care in several other states, The Associated Press reported. Virginia's Department of Corrections knows how many grievances were filed against the company here, a spokesman told AP, but it does not track how many of the complaints were found to be justified. It should. How else can the department -- and all Virginians -- judge the company's performance? Is the public not expected to care? A company spokeswoman noted that the practice of medicine everywhere "is fraught with exposure to lawsuits, and a disproportionately high number of lawsuits originate in prisons and jails." Undoubtedly. Yet it also is true that prisoners present uncommon security concerns that can affect medical judgments and lead to poor treatment. Because inmates are so generally despised by and isolated from the society outside their prison walls, inadequate care might pass unnoticed. Law-abiding citizens surely do not want to pamper lawbreakers. But prisoners writing to the American Civil Liberties Union of Virginia complain that their serious medical issues are routinely neglected. Thoughtful people will not accept such pleas without question. But neither should they automatically dismiss inmate complaints as troublemaking by ne'er-do-wells with too much time on their hands. The quality of medical care in Virginia prisons bears scrutiny.

May 14, 2006 AP
A prison health care company that has come under fire nationally for what some call shoddy medical care is under contract with the Virginia Department of Corrections and stirring similar complaints here. Prison Health Services, the largest U.S. provider of health care to inmates, has been the target of lawsuits and allegations of poor medical care and neglect in other states and now provides care to about one-third of Virginia's 31,270 inmates. In 2004, 330 medical grievances were filed by inmates at the prisons using the Brentwood, Tenn., company, Department of Corrections spokesman Larry Traylor said. The department does not track how many of those grievances were deemed justified, he said. Inmates, however, in dozens of complaints shared with The Associated Press, say the care is so bad, some fear for their lives. "I know we're in prison, and I know things won't operate how they do out there--but we are not sent here to die," said Aimee Mootz, a former inmate medical aid in the infirmary at Fluvanna Correctional Center for Women. Prisoners regularly received substandard care at the infirmary _ including one seriously ill inmate, Mootz said, who was often left alone by medical staff to sleep in a pool of her own vomit. PHS and the Department of Corrections argue they are unable to defend themselves against complaints because of patient confidentiality laws. A spokeswoman for the contractor would not disclose how many lawsuits have been brought against the company, but said 96 percent of such cases are dismissed before trial. "It's worth noting that the practice of medicine is fraught with exposure to lawsuits, and a disproportionately high number of lawsuits originate in prisons and jails," PHS spokeswoman Susan Morgenstern wrote in an e-mailed response to questions from the AP. "We have an excellent team of medical professionals in Virginia, and they work hard every day to provide quality medical care." Fluvanna inmate Marguerite Brown, 51, said the prison's nurses repeatedly ignored her pleas for help after she told them she'd been bleeding heavily from fibroid tumors. Brown said the nurses sent her away with vitamins for anemia. She said she eventually had to be rushed to the emergency room for a blood transfusion. "It's been rough--real rough," said Brown, serving a 13-year sentence on a variety of fraud and credit card theft charges. "If it weren't for God, I probably wouldn't know which way to go." Inmates from every prison in Virginia that uses PHS have lodged medical complaints with the American Civil Liberties Union of Virginia, executive director Kent Willis said. The ACLU received 167 inmate health care complaints in 2005, he said. In letters to the ACLU that were shared with the AP, inmates from PHS-run facilities complained about a variety of problems, including chronic medication shortages and constant neglect of serious medical issues. "This place is killing me," wrote Greensville Correctional Center inmate Larry AsBury, who said more than half the inmates he knows at Greensville are covered in rashes that go untreated. AsBury, who said he also suffers from tuberculosis, wrote he once waited months for a doctor to remove a cast from his broken wrist, finally becoming so frustrated he used a pair of fingernail clippers to remove the cast. Willis acknowledged that garnering public sympathy for inmates is a tough task. "You combine that with the fact that the whole process is so isolated (and) it's difficult for information critical of the services to surface," Willis said.

June 27, 2005 Times Dispatch
Medical care for a growing number of Virginia prisoners is in the hands of a company that investigators in other states say has a dubious, if not alarming, record. Independent reviews of Prison Health Services' performance in Alabama and New York found instances of improper or substandard care, in some cases involving inmates who died. Unlike in those states, there is no outside oversight of inmate medical care in Virginia, and much about the subject, including inmate medical records, is kept secret. The Virginia Department of Corrections is satisfied with the job Prison Health Services -- PHS -- is doing here, a spokesman said. As of last month, PHS, which touts itself as the largest private health-care provider for prisons and jails in the U.S., served 270,000 male, female and juvenile inmates at 384 sites in 38 states. Tennessee-based PHS now provides health services at 10 Virginia correctional facilities, including two prisons with infirmaries: the Greensville Correctional Center -- the state's largest prison -- and the Powhatan Correctional Center. In the five years that ended last June 30, Virginia spent nearly half a billion dollars on health care for its 31,000 prison inmates. The system has about 375,000 "inmate visits" for medical care each year. The company's five-year contract is worth nearly $160 million. The amount paid to PHS rose from nothing in 2000 to more than 42 percent of the department's inmate health-care budget in 2004. That concerns Jean Auldridge, executive director of Citizens United for Rehabilitation of Errants of Virginia. She charges that inmates needlessly suffer and ailments can go untreated because of poor health care from PHS and the Department of Corrections. Inmates and their families have complained to The Times-Dispatch of a host of medical-care grievances, including instances of prescribed medication not given to inmates; unduly long waits to see doctors; rude and indifferent care; and physician referrals to specialists being cancelled by higher-ranking PHS physicians. Susan Morgenstern, a spokeswoman for PHS, said that patient confidentiality prohibits the company from discussing details of any individual's case. "Unfortunately, that means we can't defend ourselves when people make false accusations," she said. "I assure you that we have processes in place to ensure all our patients receive quality care. That's our mission, and that's what we provide in Virginia," Morgenstern said. Willis Keith, a 68-year-old inmate with chronic health problems, disagrees. He said he was sent to the Greensville Correctional Center where the medical care was supposed to be better. "Out of the approximately 3,000 inmates here, most will agree with me [that] . . . it is difficult to get an appointment with a doctor; [it] usually takes three weeks or more," he said in a June 16 letter. In Virginia, PHS is overseen by the Department of Corrections' office of health services, said Larry Traylor, spokesman for the department. Internal auditors with the department's inspector general's office also review health-care operations, he said. Traylor provided a May 11, 2004, internal audit report of the job the Office of Health Services was doing monitoring two PHS medical units and one run by the Department of Corrections. The audit found that in general there were adequate controls of the health services being provided. However, the audit also found that there needed to be better oversight of the distribution of medicine to inmates; assurances that inmates are following prescribed diets; and adequate documentation of medical procedures in inmate medical records. Kent Willis, executive director of the ACLU of Virginia, said "our information is anecdotal, but prison health care in Virginia does not seem to have improved since the ACLU conducted a study of it in 2003." The study, which took six months and cost $20,000, reported that the Department of Corrections produces no public reports monitoring or assessing the quality of inmate medical care. "We were concerned then about PHS' expanding role in offering medical care in Virginia's prisons," Willis said. Noting criticism of PHS in other states, Willis said: "There's no reason to believe it is doing any better in Virginia." One of the ACLU's recommendations was for independent oversight of inmate health care. Serious shortcomings have been found in other states where there is more independent oversight. In April, an expert in correctional health care who monitors Alabama prisons as part of a federal court settlement, reviewed the medical charts of 22 inmate patients at a women's prison where health care is provided by PHS and found serious problems with 19 of them. Dr. Michael Puisis also faulted the records kept for all three woman who died at the prison in 2004. Gretchen N. Rohr is an Atlanta lawyer working with the Southern Poverty Law Center, a party in the suit at the Alabama women's prison. She said there is cause for concern in any state where inmate health care is being provided by a for-profit company. Rohr said that states that handle inmate medical care directly are more successful at meeting minimal standards of care. In states where there are private health-care providers, "there has to be a tremendous amount of transparency and oversight." The New York State Commission of Correction in recent years has strongly criticized PHS for errors in handling the cases of roughly two dozen inmates who died in city and state jails. James E. Lawrence, director of operations for the commission, said investigations into deaths of inmates under the care of PHS found that "some of the problems had more to do with business practices rather than simple, medical mistakes, or simple negligence." "The nature of the problems are different than you typically find in health-care lapses," he said. The problems "relate more to business practices rather than simple medical mistakes, errors and negligence." In some cases, it was found that health-care personnel, such as nurses, were routinely asked to deliver care for which they were not qualified or licensed. In such cases the nurse would earn less than the person who would be qualified to deliver the service, he said. Lawrence said cost-cutting by PHS when hiring staff has led to care-cutting for the inmates. In February, The New York Times ran a three-day series of stories about problems with PHS' performance in jails in New York and in jails and prisons in other states. "The company's performance around the nation has provoked criticism from judges and sheriffs, lawsuits from inmates' families and whistle-blowers, and condemnations by federal, state and local authorities. The company has paid millions of dollars in fines and settlements," the lead article stated. PHS referred questions to Morgenstern, with the public-relations firm of Dye, Van Mol & Lawrence in Nashville, Tenn. Morgenstern said part of the reason the company has been the subject of negative media coverage is because inmates have generally poor health and that the health care must sometimes be provided in difficult circumstances. "When they enter the correctional setting and become our patients, they are much less healthy than the general public," she said. "They may not have had access to health care, and have undiagnosed/untreated chronic conditions. There are high levels of HIV, hepatitis, diabetes, hypertension, respiratory problems." "As you know, anyone can make an allegation about care, but that does not mean it's true," she said. "We are in the position of being unable to discuss the topic . . . because of patient confidentiality." Morgenstern said the premise that PHS puts business interests ahead of patient care is false. PHS, she said, has never denied necessary medical care because that would be wrong "and a violation of the company's values and mission. Secondarily, it would also be a bad business practice" Morgenstern said that charges by New York officials about PHS performance there "are subjective, without basis of fact and political in nature." She said Lawrence is opposed to the privatization of health care in jails and prisons. Beginning in the fall of 2001, PHS has requested to meet with the New York State Commission Of Correction to respond to allegations, Morgenstern said. "All requests, both written and verbal, have been denied. Specific denial in writing by the [commission's] general counsel was received in May 2003," she said. But a spokeswoman for the Commission of Correction said PHS has never sought meetings between its clinical leadership or physician-executives and the commission's Medical Review Board to discuss PHS' performance in specific cases. "The commission has only been approached by PHS' business agents, corporate officers, attorneys and lobbyists in attempts to influence agency policy," Jessica Scaperotti said. Scaperotti said that when the commission's Medical Review Board "seeks interaction with PHS on specific cases, it encounters only attorneys. In fact, PHS unsuccessfully sued the commission to suppress Medical Review Board reports in 2002, not an auspicious approach to establishing the dialogue it claims to seek." Traylor said that last year Virginia inmates filed 1,037 inmate medical grievances. The number of such grievances filed against PHS -- 31 percent -- was roughly proportionate to the percentage of Virginia inmates under PHS care. Traylor could not say how many of those complaints were deemed justified by the department's Office of Health Services. He said that the Department of Corrections does not pay PHS for positions that are not filled. Those assessments against PHS have averaged roughly $40,000 per institution per year over the past four years. Morgenstern contends the assessments -- which have totaled $1,622,437 -- are the result of normal turnover. The positions remain unfilled while replacements are found and cleared to work in prisons, a process that can take 30 days. According to company records, the assessments have dropped from almost $600,000 in 2002 to $309, 901 last year. Traylor said the primary reason the department sought a private medical-care contractor is because they are better able to recruit medical staff for the prisons with better salaries, more flexible schedules and recruitment bonuses that the department cannot match. Traylor said the department is not concerned about the job PHS is performing in spite of negative reports elsewhere.

November 21, 2003
Legal action over the stun-gun death of an inmate has led to a third settlement, this one involving the company that once provided medical care at Virginia's supermax prisons.  Correctional Medical Services of St. Louis recently agreed to pay an undisclosed amount to settle a lawsuit filed by the family of Larry Frazier. The Connecticut inmate died three years ago after being shocked repeatedly with a stun gun during a struggle with guards in the infirmary of Wallens Ridge State Prison.  An order dismissing the case was filed this week in U.S. District Court in Roanoke.  John Fishwick, a Roanoke attorney who represents Frazier's family, said the amount was confidential as part of the settlement.  Although CMS employees did not handle the stun gun, the lawsuit accused them of nonetheless contributing to Frazier's death.  Shortly before Frazier was shocked, Dr. Larry Howard told guards that the inmate's actions were behavioral, not medical, according to an investigation by state officials. Had the case gone to trial, Fishwick would have argued that Howard's comments amounted to an authorization of use of force at a time when Frazier's legitimate medical needs were being ignored.  Also, the lawsuit claimed that CMS officials did not use a defibrillator that might have saved Frazier's life after he suffered heart failure. Howard did not know the medical device was in a nearby office; a nurse knew it was there but had not been trained to use it, according to court records.  As for CMS, a state audit conducted in 2000 found the company had been assessed more than $900,000 in penalties for not complying with standards in its contract. CMS no longer provides health care at Wallens Ridge or Red Onion.  (

October 24, 2003
The state of Virginia has settled its part in a $204 million lawsuit filed by the family of an inmate from Connecticut who died after being shocked repeatedly with a stun gun.  The agreement, made public Thursday in U.S. District Court, allows Virginia to avoid a trial that would have examined the use of force at Wallens Ridge State Prison. The amount of the settlement was not disclosed.  The Virginia Department of Corrections has denied that excessive force led to Larry Frazier's death about three years ago. And in the agreement, it acknowledged no wrongdoing, said Larry Traylor, a state prisons spokesman. The lawsuit's defendants had included a group of state prison administrators and employees.  David Fathi, an attorney for the National Prison Project, said he was not surprised by the news. "I think the department was wise to settle," he said. "Based on everything I know about the facts, they had substantial liability."  Still remaining as defendants in the lawsuit are Correctional Medical Services, which provided health care at Wallens Ridge, and a doctor and nurse formerly employed by the St. Louis company. The trial is scheduled to begin on Nov. 17.  "We are looking forward to trying the case against the three remaining defendants," said John Fishwick, a Roanoke attorney representing Frazier's family.  Frazier, a 50-year-old convicted rapist who suffered from diabetes and other health problems, was one of 500 prisoners from Connecticut being held in Virginia prisons under a state contract.  He was taken to the Wallens Ridge infirmary on June 29, 2000. When he began to thrash about on his gurney and kick correctional officers, he was shocked several times with the stun gun, prison officials said. He was discovered unconscious some minutes later.  He died five days later at a Richmond hospital.  After Frazier's death, Virginia correctional officials hired an outside consultant to review the incident. The consultant found that Frazier died from "chronic medical conditions" complicated by his struggle with guards. Use of the stun gun played no role in the inmate's death, the consultant found.  However, an autopsy the following year found the stun gun might have played a role in Frazier's death, prompting the Department of Corrections to suspend use of the device.  After filing the lawsuit last year, Fishwick discovered that Larry Howard, the Correctional Medical Services doctor involved in Frazier's care, was fired after saying the stun gun appeared to have killed the inmate. In addition, a medical device that might have saved Frazier was never used after he suffered heart failure.  The state of Connecticut already has agreed to pay $1.1 million to settle a separate lawsuit with the inmate's family. The family has said that Frazier's medical condition made him unsuitable for the maximum security prison in Wise County.  (AP)

September 9, 2003
Several suppliers to state prison commissaries are suing the Department of Corrections to end a privatization plan they say is hurting Virginia businesses.  In a lawsuit filed in Richmond Circuit Court, three Virginia-based vendors claim the corrections department is breaking the law by allowing a private company, Keefe Supply Co. of St. Louis, to use inmate labor in the prison commissaries Keefe Supply is operating.  "You can't provide inmate labor to a private enterprise as a subsidy," said Ian J. Wilson, a lawyer for the Richmond firm Hirschler Fleischer PC, which is representing the plaintiffs.  A spokesman for the Department of Corrections declined to comment on the lawsuit filed last week.  Traditionally, prison officials have managed commissaries, where inmates can buy toiletries, snacks, paper and other items. Officials at each prison have chosen their own vendors through competitive bidding.  That began to change in 2002 when the agency started to privatize commissaries. The state contracted with Keefe Supply to take over the management of five commissaries in a pilot program. Keefe Supply's contract has since been expanded to include 28 more prisons, according to the suit.  The corrections department has said the privatization will save the state $1.2 million a year. Ten other prison commissaries are run by the agency.  The three plaintiffs are Highland Beef Farms Inc., a Reston-based supplier of packaged meats and cheeses; Ashland-based Virginia Snacks Inc., a supplier of snack foods; and Roanoke-based Lee Hartman & Sons Inc., which supplies electronics such as radios.  They argue that the privatization is hurting Virginia businesses by essentially granting a monopoly to a company based in another state.  The owner of Virginia Snacks said the loss of commissary sales would put him out of business.  Jay Hersch, owner of Highland Beef Farms, said he will lose about $200,000 a year in sales because several commissaries he once supplied have come under Keefe Supply's management. The company has its own supply chain.  "What I want to do is stop the privatization," Hersch said. "I want it to be open so it is competitive, so companies like mine have a shot."  Keefe Supply pays the department a monthly commission of 6.5 percent on all sales. Inmates work in the commissaries, and Keefe Supply reimburses the state for the labor. Inmates are typically paid 35 to 45 cents an hour.  The lawsuit claims that violates state law, which allows the department to provide inmate labor only for government, nonprofit or civic organizations.  Wilson said corrections department documents show that the privatization plan "always envisioned that the state would allow access to inmate labor, at a very low cost."  "We think that the privatization program is founded on the use of inmate labor, which is inconsistent with the statute governing the department of corrections," he said. "If that falls, it really taints the program."  (Times-Dispatch)

Virginia Legislature
Jan 22, 2021

Private prison, gambling and marijuana businesses showered General Assembly with campaign cash before session

The company that operates Virginia’s only private prison doled out campaign contributions to 29 Virginia lawmakers ahead of a push to pass legislation banishing the for-profit corrections industry from the state, according to campaign finance records compiled by the Virginia Public Access Project. And when the bill came before a Senate panel last week for its first hearing, it died a quick and sudden death, with some of the legislators who received the donations speaking most forcefully against it. Lawmakers, who almost always maintain that there is no connection between campaign contributions and their legislative decision making, called it a coincidence. “Did not even realize they made a contribution,” said Sen. Joe Morrissey, D-16th, of Richmond, who received $500 from the company and spoke in opposition to the bill at length during last week’s committee hearing. He attributed his opposition to a convincing phone call from a lobbyist and the fact that it would not address other prison contractors he views as more problematic, such as the companies that charge inmates inflated prices for phone calls and packs of ramen. GEO Group, a publicly traded private correctional company based in Florida, isn’t the only company that boosted its contributions heading into the 2021 legislative session. Campaign finance records show an influx of spending by a multi-state cannabis company with a stake in Virginia’s emerging marijuana market and the so-called skill-game industry, whose gambling machines may or may not be banned by policymakers over the next few months. In GEO’s case, the contributions late last year represented its first significant gifts to sitting Virginia lawmakers in more than a decade, according to VPAP. The donations, which totaled $35,000, came after lawmakers directed the Department of Corrections to study how much it would cost for the state to assume control of the Lawrenceville Correctional Center, for which GEO Group is currently paid more than $2 million a month to manage. GEO Group did not respond to a request for comment about its giving in Virginia, but has defended its management of the prison, which has faced criticism from family members and drew a rebuke from state corrections officials as it struggled to keep the facility adequately staffed amid the pandemic. Most of GEO’s donations ranged from $250 to $2,000. But the biggest beneficiary of the company’s was Del. Luke Torian, D-52nd, of Prince William, who accepted a $10,000 donation from the company. As chairman of the powerful House Appropriations Committee, Torian would have been a key decision maker in whether to set aside the $9 million the Department of Corrections estimated it would cost the state to assume management of Lawrenceville. “We do not comment on individual contributions,” Torian’s spokeswoman, Gianna DeJoy, said in an email, adding that overall Torian was pleased with his fundraising last year, which she said he planned to use to help elect fellow Democrats around the state. This year was the first time Virginia lawmakers and candidates had to disclose big campaign donations received just prior to the legislative session. In 2020, the General Assembly passed a new law requiring immediate disclosure of any donation of $1,000 or more from Jan. 1 through the day before the session. Because legislators are banned from raising money during the session, there’s usually a last-minute fundraising blitz before the ban kicks in. Under the old reporting system, those big donations, many of which come from companies who might be affected by General Assembly decisions, wouldn’t become public until the session was over.

Virginia Tech University

February 3, 2006 Collegiate Times
For the Virginia Tech Foundation, Inc., social responsibility is not on the radar when investing its endowment. “Why should it be?” asked Raymond Smoot, the chief operating officer of the foundation. The foundation invests $5.1 million of it's $728 million in total assets and managed funds in Farallon Capital Management LLC, one of the world's largest hedge funds. Smoot reported that the Foundation began the investment with Farallon in 2000. Farallon, a hedge fund favorite among several university-affiliated institutions, including Duke University, the University of Richmond and Yale, has raised concerns among students and alumni. Phoebe Rounds, a Yale undergrad, explained that Yale was the first to pioneer the investments in hedge funds and continued the practice because of the high monetary return. In order to receive the money, she explained that Yale ignored some social issues involved with Farallon. “(Yale) got returns in the double digits, but wasn't thinking about the context of the entire world,” she said. Rounds, the spokesperson for UnFairallon, a coalition of activist students seeking to publicize Farallon's investments, explained that Yale students became suspicious of the company's investment in the Corrections Corporation of America, the largest prison company in America. CCA has been condemned by Amnesty International for human rights violations. UnFairallon has accused the hedge fund for investing in companies that do not adhere to environmental regulations. “I think a lot of people are looking the other way and that's why it's so important to step up and start investigating these investments,” she said.

Wallens Ridge Prison
Big Stone Gap, Virginia
Virginia Department of Corrections

October 13, 2003
A medical device that could have saved Larry Frazier's life went unused as he lapsed into a coma after being shocked repeatedly with a stun gun in a prison infirmary, lawyers for the inmate's family say.  The allegation, made in motion filed last week in federal court, adds a new layer to a $204 million lawsuit that raises questions about conditions at Wallens Ridge State Prison.  When it was filed last year, the lawsuit claimed that Frazier's death was the result of excessive force by stun gun-wielding guards and inadequate medical care by Correctional Medical Services, a private company that provided health care to inmates at the supermax prison.  The latest claim, which attorneys for Frazier's family say they only recently discovered, is that an automatic external defibrillator that would have saved the inmate's life was not used to revive him. Frazier suffered heart failure on June 29, 2000, after being shocked with an Ultron II, a stun gun that releases 50,000 volts of electricity.  A CMS doctor who treated Frazier did not know the defibrillator was available, and a nurse for the company knew it was at the prison but had not been trained to use it, according to a motion filed by John Fishwick, a Roanoke attorney who represents Frazier's family.  Despite knowing since 1998 the value of a defibrillator, which shocks the heart into beating again, CMS failed to promptly provide the devices to staff members in all the prisons it served, the motion states.  (The Roanoke Times)

August 15, 2003
A prison doctor was fired after concluding that electric shocks from a guard's stun gun killed an inmate, according to papers filed in federal court.  The private company that provided medical services at Wallens Ridge State Prison said it dismissed Dr. Larry Eugene Howard because the state Department of Corrections barred him from the Wise County prison.  A $204 million lawsuit accuses guards of killing Wallens Ridge inmate Larry Frazier with the Ultron II electroshock device in July 2000. Frazier was one of a number of prisoners from Connecticut being held in Virginia prisons under a state contract.  Documents filed Thursday allege that Correctional Medical Services Inc. terminated its contract with Howard almost immediately after he told his employer and state corrections officials that he believed Frazier died as a result of the repeated shocks.  Howard's opinion contradicted a state medical examiner's report that Frazier, 50, died because of a heart problem ``due to stress while being restrained following stunning with Ultron II device.'' The examiner determined the death was ``natural.''  The corrections department nevertheless has suspended use of the Ultron II device.  Howard was the physician on call June 29, 2000, the day Frazier struggled with Wallens Ridge guards and was zapped with 50,000 volts of electricity as guards pinned him to a gurney. He lapsed into a coma and died five days later.  Asked at a July 10, 2000, meeting in Richmond for his opinion on the cause of Frazier's death, Howard recalled saying, ``I think it was a result of him being stunned,'' according to his deposition. He said a company representative called him on his cell phone to fire him as he drove back to Big Stone Gap after the meeting.  (AP)

March 15, 2002
Connecticut has agreed to pay nearly $2 million to settle lawsuits involving the deaths of two inmates it sent to a controversial supermax prison in Wise County . According to an attorney involved in the case, the Department of Correction will pay $1.1 million to the estate of Lawrence Frazier, who died after guards shocked him repeatedly with a stun gun at Wallens Ridge State Prison. Another $750,000 will go to the estate of David Tracy, a mentally ill 20-year-old who had less than a year left to serve when he committed suicide at Wallens Ridge, a prison designed for hard-core inmates with little hope of release. Antonio Ponvert, a Bridgeport , Conn. , attorney who represented the inmates' families, said prison officials never should have transferred 500 of the state's inmates to Wallens Ridge in 1999, considering the prison's reputation. (The Roanoke Times)

May 31, 2001
Seventy-two inmates from Wyoming are the latest out-of-state prisoners at a Virginia supermax.  The inmates were transferred last week from the Wyoming State Penitentiary to Wallens Ridge State Prison in Wise County.  The highly restrictive prison, designed to hold the "worst of the worst" inmates, was just what Wyoming officials had in mind for the transfer.  The inmates made the 1,300-mile trip Friday on a jet operated by the U.S. Marshals Service.  In addition to the Wyoming inmates, there are 139 prisoners from Connecticut, 40 from New Mexico, one from Washington, D.C., and one from Hawaii.  Statewide, Virginia prisons are holding 3,376 out-of-state prisoners as the result of a massive prison-building campaign that left the state with more cells than inmates.  (The Roanoke Times)

A Connecticut inmate, Lawrence Frazier, said he nearly died because he was not given his insulin during a 22-hour trip to Virginia. After arriving at the facility, he continued to have problems getting insulin and medical care.  Frazier died July 4 after being shocked several times by a stun gun.  An investigation into his death and that of David Tracy has begun by the U.S. Justice Department and the F.B.I. 

July 2000
Two deaths of inmates from Connecticut and charges of abuse plague this for-profit public prison. (AP, July 19, 2000)

February 27, 2003
Wackenhut Corrections Corporation (NYSE: WHC - News), announced on February 5, 2003 that it had been selected to negotiate with the Commonwealth of Virginia Department of Corrections (DOC) and Department of Correctional Education (DCE) to operate the Lawrenceville Correctional Center, a 1,536-bed medium security, adult male prison in Lawrenceville, Virginia.  WCC has recently been informed that the DOC has determined that it must negotiate with two bidders, rather than one bidder, prior to awarding the contract to operate the Lawrenceville facility. Accordingly, both WCC and Corrections Corporation of America are currently in negotiations with the DOC and the DCE for the contract to operate the Lawrenceville facility. A decision as to which party will be awarded the contract is expected shortly.  (Yahoo Finance)

February 7, 2003
A rival of Corrections Corporation of America yesterday said it was selected to negotiate with Virginia to operate a prison now run by CCA. Pending a final agreement, Wackenhut Corrections Corp. said it expects on March 23 to begin operating the 1,536-bed prison in Lawrenceville , Va. ''This is a pretty rare event,'' said James Macdonald, an analyst with First Analysis in Chicago , about a prison firm losing a contract up for rebidding. If Wackenhut takes over the contract, it would mean an annual after-tax loss of 3 to 4 cents a share for CCA, Macdonald said. (

February 5, 2003
Wackenhut Corrections Corporation has been selected to negotiate with the Commonwealth of Virginia Department of Corrections and Department of Correctional Education to operate the Lawrenceville Correctional Center, a 1,536-bed medium security, adult male prison in Lawrenceville, Virginia.  (Yahoo Finance)