Category Archives: Corrections

State lawmaker’s plan for replacing Green Bay prison

Source: Aisha Morales, WBAY, April 17, 2017
 
Shutting down the Green Bay Correctional Institution and building a new one nearby is not a new conversation. But this week state Rep. David Steffen (R-Howard) says he’ll introduce his bill to the Legislature to turn the current facility into something that can make Brown County actual revenue. His remedy is to decommission the prison facility in Allouez and turn it into residential or retail space or a mix of the two, and have a new prison privately built in Brown County. … Although a location for a new prison has yet to be determined, Steffen wants it to be privately built and owned. The state would lease the space, and it would be run by state employees. …

Should the Federal Bureau of Prisons Phase Out Contracted Prisons?

Source: Austill Stuart, Reason Foundation, March 2017

United States Attorney General Jeff Sessions recently pushed the debate over private prisons back into the spotlight with a February 21, 2017 memorandum rescinding a Department of Justice memorandum that had been issued in August 2016 calling for the eventual end of
using private prisons within the federal Bureau of Prisons (BOP). The August 2016 memo, which followed a report that had been released by the Department of Justice’s Inspector General (OIG) on improving the monitoring of private prisons, included significant space dedicated to comparing various safety and security metrics between BOP operated prisons and their private prison counterparts within the BOP system. … Given Attorney General Sessions’ memo and the renewed debate over private prisons that will likely follow, it is important to get beyond conflicting memos and take a closer look at what the August 2016 Inspector General report did, and did not, conclude about private prisons. …

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Obama’s DOJ Says It One More Time: Private Prisons Aren’t Working
Source: Seth Freed Wessler, The Nation, December 21, 2016

In what may be the Obama administration’s parting shot on private prisons, the Justice Department inspector general found in an audit released yesterday that yet another privately run facility is in crisis, suffering from inadequate medical care, persistent understaffing, and weak federal oversight. The audit comes after Obama’s DOJ ordered the Bureau of Prisons to begin closing all of its privately run facilities this summer, and after President-elect Donald Trump has insisted, against mounds of evidence to the contrary, that private prisons “work a lot better.”

The US government is already quietly backing out of its promise to phase out private prisons
Source: Hannah Kozlowska, Quartz, November 27, 2016

Critics have long denounced private prisons in the US as unsafe, inefficient and at times, inhumane. Those critics, who include inmates and activists, seemed to find a powerful ally earlier this year when the Department of Justice announced it would phase out its use of private prisons for federal prisoners. This wouldn’t mean the end of privately-run incarceration facilities (they’re also used by immigration authorities and states), but it was seen as a step forward. Except, that when the first contracts came up for re-negotiation this fall, the federal Bureau of Prisons (BOP) quietly decided to renew them anyway. That decision, along with the election of Donald Trump, mean that the US is unlikely to see the use of private prison operators diminish any time soon. Last week, CoreCivic (CCA), one of the country’s two largest prison operators, announced that the BOP had renewed its contract for two years to run the McRae Correctional Facility in Georgia. According to the company, the new agreement was barely changed, with only an 8% reduction in inmate beds. This despite an August memo from the deputy attorney general Sally Yates that stated that the Department of Justice, which oversees BOP, would either nix the contracts, or “substantially” reduce them when they came up for renewal. … She pointed out that the BOP extended its contract with GEO Group, the other leading prison company in the US in September for the D. Ray James Correctional Facility, also in Georgia. As with the McRae facility, the company presents the reduction of the contract as small, and the BOP presented the cut as larger in an email to Quartz, using different numbers from the agreement. … Separately, the election of Donald Trump as president of the US has activists worried that the steps taken by the Obama administration to reduce the population of inmates in private prisons will be quickly rolled back. Trump has said outright that he supports prison privatization, and his plans for cracking down on illegal immigration would be a boon for prison operators: the stock prices of CoreCivic and the GEO Group soared following his election. Meanwhile, his nomination of Sen. Jeff Sessions—a harsh critic of criminal justice reform efforts—to serve as attorney general certainly won’t help. In October, Geo Group hired two former aides to Sessions to lobby in favor of outsourcing federal corrections to the private prison industry. …

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County lawsuit claims jail medical service company at fault

Source: Martha Bellisle, Associated Press, April 1, 2017

Inmates and their families are suing Pierce County after they or their loved ones suffered medical problems or died at the jail, and in turn, the county is suing the for-profit company that provided medical services to those inmates, saying it was “wholly inadequate.” A jury likely would find the operation of the jail medical clinic by the company, Correct Care Solutions/Conmed, was “incompetent, unprofessional and morally reprehensible,” Pierce County Deputy Prosecuting Attorney Grace Kingman told a Conmed lawyer in a letter acquired by The Associated Press. Pierce County isn’t alone in dealing with legal challenges to Conmed’s medical services. Cowlitz, Clark and Kitsap are among the counties facing lawsuits that allege inmates received poor or questionable medical care while being held at the jails.

… Among the lawsuits’ allegations:
— A Kitsap County Jail inmate died while going through heroin withdrawals.
— A Clark County Jail inmate who suffered from schizoaffective disorder and other mental illnesses wasn’t given his medications and died during an altercation with officers.
— Four inmates died in the Cowlitz County Jail between 2013 and 2014 while needing medical attention.
— A Pierce County inmate didn’t receive his medications and suffered two seizures and a fall that resulted in a traumatic brain injury and fractures to his eye sockets and wrist.

Dan Hamilton, a Pierce County deputy prosecutor, said a yearlong contract with Conmed/Correct Care Solutions resulted in 11 legal claims and four lawsuits over medical care, so the county is fighting back. It hired Conmed to provide medical and dental services at the jail starting in February 2014. But from the start, Conmed failed in a list of areas: significant pharmacy problems; staffing shortages and almost weekly turnover; delay in medical care; failure to provide basic services; and poor record keeping, according to Kingman’s letter to the company. After repeated complaints to the company, Pierce County decided to stop paying Conmed, in hopes that it would fix the problems, Hamilton said. Conmed kept asking for more time, and the county obliged, but the troubles continued, he said. The county eventually ended the contract and found another service provider. Conmed filed a breach-of-contract lawsuit in Pierce County Superior Court seeking payment, but the county continued to refuse to pay, arguing Conmed was the one at fault. …

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Pierce County Jail outsources medical care, lays off 15
Source: Steve Maynard, News Tribune, February 14, 2014

The Pierce County Sheriff’s Department began contracting out medical care at the county jail Feb. 1 in a cost-cutting move that laid off 15 full-time workers. …..The department is paying Conmed Inc. $4.3 million to provide medical services at the jail for the last 11 months of this year.….The county’s medical staff members, who were union employees on the county payroll, were told in January 2013 that the Corrections Bureau was looking into contracting the work they do. Dylan Carlson, who represented medical staff for the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, could not be reached for comment.

Jail considers private sector medical staff
Source: Steve Maynard, Bellingham Herald, January 29, 2013

The Pierce County Sheriff’s Department is exploring the possibility of saving money by contracting out medical care provided by 38 nurses, physician assistants and other workers at the county jail. Declining jail bookings and revenue, coupled with overtime expenses, are putting pressure on the Sheriff’s Department to reduce costs…. A contract would not include mental health services, Troyer said. Mental health care is “a whole different issue,” he said, and jail staff will continue to provide those services. …

Martinez’s veto pen dims hopes for criminal justice reform

Source: Andrew Oxford, Santa Fe New Mexican, April 6, 2017

Gov. Susana Martinez on Thursday vetoed a bill that would have prohibited state prisons and local jails from locking minors and pregnant women in solitary confinement, a practice that prison reformers say can cause lasting psychological damage but that jail officials say is key to maintaining order among inmates. … Advocates for criminal justice reform have pushed in past legislative sessions to curb the practice of solitary confinement, defined as locking an inmate alone in a cell for at least 22 hours a day. … But following pushback from Corrections Department officials and jail administrators who argued the stricter bill would lead to unrest among inmates, House Bill 175’s sponsor argued that this year’s narrower proposal would have at least ended some of the most egregious uses of solitary confinement, cases that have led to scandals and millions of dollars in legal settlements.… The bill called for county jails to regularly report on the use of solitary confinement, and for private jails to disclose every three months how much money was paid to settle any lawsuits filed by former inmates. The New Mexico Association of Counties dropped its opposition to the bill after changes that would have given detention facilities more flexibility. And representatives from the union representing corrections officers — the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees — spoke in favor of the bill. …

Officials Ruled Inmate’s ‘Boiling’ Death An Accident. But Documents Show They Omitted Key Details.

Source: Matt Ferner, Huffington Post, March 29, 2017

The June 2012 death of Darren Rainey, an inmate at the Dade Correctional Institution in South Florida, attracted national attention after other inmates claimed he was burned like “a boiled lobster” after about two hours in a shower that guards had modified to punish prisoners. A Florida prosecutor issued a 101-page report earlier this month that cleared guards of any wrongdoing in Rainey’s death. The prosecutor, Miami-Dade State Attorney Katherine Fernandez Rundle, called Rainey’s death an accident resulting from his schizophrenia and heart disease and from confinement in the shower room. But a trove of official documents reviewed by The Huffington Post indicates that some information from police, the prison and emergency services was not included in the prosecutor’s final report, which raises questions about the circumstances surrounding Rainey’s death. A review of the documents was permitted by a person with close access to the investigation who asked not to be identified sharing non-public information. …

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Madness: In Florida prisons, mentally ill inmates have been tortured, driven to suicide, and killed by guards.
Source: Eyal Press, The New Yorker, May 2, 2016

Shortly after Harriet Krzykowski began working at the Dade Correctional Institution, in Florida, an inmate whispered to her, “You know they starve us, right?” It was the fall of 2010, and Krzykowski, a psychiatric technician, had been hired by Dade, which is forty miles south of Miami, to help prisoners with clinical behavioral problems follow their treatment plans. The inmate was housed in Dade’s mental-health ward, the Transitional Care Unit, a cluster of buildings connected by breezeways and equipped with one-way mirrors and surveillance cameras. “I thought, Oh, this guy must be paranoid or schizophrenic,” she said recently. Moreover, she’d been warned during her training that prisoners routinely made false accusations against guards. … Krzykowski mentioned that she had overheard security guards heckling prisoners. One officer had told an inmate, “Go ahead and kill yourself—no one will miss you.” Again, Perez seemed unfazed. “It’s just words,” she said. Then, as Krzykowski recalls it, Perez leaned forward and gave her some advice: “You have to remember that we have to have a good working relationship with security.” … A few days later, Krzykowski was running a “psycho-educational group”—an hour-long session in which inmates gathered to talk while she observed their mood and affect. After a dozen inmates had filed into the room, she noticed that the guard who had been standing by the door had walked away. She was on her own. Krzykowski completed the session without incident, and decided that the guard must have been summoned to deal with an emergency. But later, when she was in the rec yard, the guard there disappeared, too, once more leaving her unprotected amid a group of inmates. Around the same time, the metal doors that security officers controlled to regulate the traffic flow between prison units started opening more slowly for Krzykowski. …

… Reached by phone, Perez declined to comment, telling me that I could direct any questions to Wexford Health Sources, the private contractor that now provides mental-health services at Dade. In 2013, Florida privatized all the health services in its prisons. According to a series of investigative articles by Pat Beall, of the Palm Beach Post, this policy change has resulted in grossly substandard care. One difficulty with entrusting mental-health services to a for-profit company is that there is a disincentive to acknowledge abuse, because doing so could jeopardize the contract. Wexford’s Web site describes “integrity and ethics” as the “foundation” of the company’s culture. Wexford, too, declined to comment.

Lawsuit: ‘Systemic failures’ led to Randall County jail injury

Source: Robert Stein, Amarillo Globe-News, March 29, 2017

A recent civil lawsuit alleges a “systemic failure” to provide medical care by Randall County jail officials led to a detainee suffering permanent brain damage. Jail personnel in 2015 failed to provide prescribed medication to Ralph Karl Ingrim, a 53-year-old man being held at the jail after an arrest for misdemeanor trespassing, despite requests to do so from Ingrim’s mother and signs Ingrim was “out of it,” the lawsuit says. As a result, the lawsuit alleges, Ingrim had a seizure, fell and suffered a skull fracture and brain bleed. … The lawsuit, filed Friday in Amarillo’s federal court, comes about two months after Randall County settled a wrongful death lawsuit also involving allegations of withheld seizure medication at the jail. The suit also says a third person sued the county for failing to provide anti-seizure medication. … The recent suit names as defendants Randall County; Sheriff Joel Richardson; private medical service provider Correct Care Solutions, LLC; and jailers Nick Wright and Cristina Gibbons. It alleges the jailers were aware of Ingrim’s need for anti-seizure medication but ignored it, denying him constitutionally required care. The lawsuit further claims Correct Care, which contracted with the county to provide medical services for inmates, “chronically understaffed” the jail and did not properly evaluate or monitor Ingrim. … As evidence of a recurring problem at the jail, the lawsuit cites a 2014 incident in which a 52-year-old Randall County inmate named Wendell Carl Simmons was also allegedly injured after being denied anti-seizure medication. … Correct Care was also named as a defendant in the Simmons case. …

Prison violations led to amputations and death, Idaho inmates say

Source: Associated Press, March 27, 2017

Idaho inmates are asking a federal judge to penalize the state after saying prison officials repeatedly violated a settlement plan in a long-running lawsuit over health care, leading to amputations and other serious injuries and even some prisoners’ deaths. In a series of documents filed in federal court, the inmates’ attorney Christopher Pooser painted a bleak and often gruesome picture of the alleged problems at the Idaho State Correctional Institution south of Boise. The prison is the state’s oldest, with more than 1,400 beds, including special units for chronically ill, elderly and disabled inmates. Pooser and the inmates allege some prisoners were forced to undergo amputations after their blisters and bedsores went untreated and began to rot, and others with serious disabilities were left unbathed or without water for extended periods and given food only sporadically. The prison’s death rates outpaced the national average as well as rates at other Idaho facilities, according to the documents. And despite hearing evidence to the contrary, prison officials failed to double-check the numbers when its health care contractor, Corizon, reported being 100 percent compliant with state health care requirements. Meanwhile, prison officials were falsifying documents to make it look like all employees were trained in suicide prevention when many were not, the filings said. The inmates are asking the judge to hold the state in contempt of court and levy more than $24 million in fines against the Idaho Department of Correction. They say the state could cover some of the fines by recovering money paid under its contract with Corizon, but they also want the state to feel the budget hit so prison leaders will be motivated to make a fix. …

Federal prisons have fewer inmates. But the Justice Dept. says it still needs private prisons to hold them.

Source: Matt Zapotosky, The Washington Post, March 24, 2017

… But even Sessions’s Justice Department has noted the federal inmate population is falling. In a recent White House budget proposal, officials even pointed to the 14 percent drop since 2013 as a reason the Justice Department could nix construction of a planned government-run prison and save more than $1 billion in the process. So why, then, would they need to keep using private prisons? David C. Fathi, director of the American Civil Liberties Union’s National Prison Project, said the budget proposal indicated either that “the embrace of private prisons was a purely ideological decision unconnected to any actual need,” or Justice Department officials expected they’d now increase the inmate population — and rely on private prisons to help find the bed space. … Justice Department officials, who would speak only on the condition of anonymity because budget discussions are ongoing, said they viewed the private prison directive as separate from whether they should press ahead with construction of a new government-run prison. … But Justice Department leaders felt that they still needed private prisons because the facilities give the Bureau of Prisons “more flexibility in the future if they need bed space,” an official said. … Fathi disputed that private prisons offer more flexibility, noting that contracts can come with guarantees that the Justice Department will fill beds. …

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Memo Restoring Use of Private Prisons Is Good News for One Company
Source: David Dayen, Moyers & Company, February 28, 2017

Attorney General Jeff Sessions’ four-sentence memo rescinding Justice Department guidance to reduce the use of private prisons sent stock soaring for the two companies that dominate the industry, Geo Group and CoreCivic (formerly Corrections Corporation of America). That’s not necessarily because the memo will lead to a ramp-up in Geo- or CoreCivic-run federal prisons. As of December 2015, about 12 percent of all inmates in federal prisons were housed in private facilities, representing only 22,660 inmates. That certainly won’t decline under Sessions, but he didn’t promise to increase it substantially. “I direct the [Bureau of Prisons] to return to its previous approach,” Sessions wrote. Anyway, DoJ renewed a pair of contracts with CoreCivic despite the now-scuttled order, so it’s unclear if the status quo ever stopped. But the high-profile memo does matter because of the precedent. States and federal agencies that might have otherwise been wary of the negative perception of private prisons, and their often horrific outcomes, can now rest easy. ….

… The seeds of Sessions’ evangelism for private prisons, and the future of the industry, were sown back in October, when two of his former Senate aides, David Stewart and Ryan Robichaux, became lobbyists for Geo Group. Stewart and Robichaux, who represent the lobbying firm Bradley Arant Boult Cummings, were specifically hired to deal with federal government contracting. … It’s not like Sessions wouldn’t have boosted private prisons had his staffers not gone to work for the industry. Trump touted private prisons as far back as last March. And Sessions’ history with the industry goes back 20 years. … So the presence of Stewart and Robichaux didn’t tip Sessions into the private-prison industry’s corner. However, it may give Geo Group a leg up in its perennial battle with CoreCivic for market share. …  The prominence of Sessions aides’ lobbying for Geo should be enough to push them past CoreCivic, expanding their share of federal contracts even more. This is simple pay-to-play favoritism. CoreCivic has tried to catch up, with a $250,000 donation to Trump’s inauguration fund. But the inside connections at Geo Group between Sessions and his ex-staffers could be too much for CoreCivic to handle. … It’s not just that the Sessions memo is good news for the private-prison industry in general. It’s good for Geo Group in particular. That’s precisely the type of crony capitalism and picking of winners and losers that conservatives have paid lip service to wanting to prevent for years. …

AFSCME Pres. Lee Saunders on Justice Department Private Prisons Announcement
Source: AFSCME Press Release, February 23, 2017

AFSCME Pres. Lee Saunders issued the following statement on the Justice Department’s reversal of the Obama Administration decision to phase out the federal government’s use of private prisons: … “Today’s Justice Department decision, however, puts corporate interests first. It’s been demonstrated time and time again that prisons-for-profit provide less security at a higher cost to taxpayers. And they contribute to the mass incarceration epidemic that is devastating so many communities. “Private prisons are dangerous and overcrowded, with inexperienced staff and unsanitary conditions. At all levels of government, we should be phasing them out, not propping them up.”

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Indiana Dept. of Corrections Cancels Contract with Healthcare Provider

Source: WFHB, March 20, 2017

The Indiana Department of Corrections has discontinued its contract with Corizon Health, the private corporation that handles most of the state’s inmate healthcare. Corizon announced last week that it would be laying off about 700 employees in 22 locations around the state. The contract, which is worth $100 million a year, is being taken up by Pittsburg-based Wexford Health Sources. A representative from Corizon said in a letter to the state that Wexford may end up hiring many of Corizon’s former employees, though there’s no guarantee that will happen. The loss of the corrections contract is the most recent in a string of contract losses for Corizon. … An investigation by the South Bend Tribune last year revealed hundreds of inmate complaints and dozens of lawsuits against Corizon in Indiana. One severely disabled patient died after just 37 days in a state prison under the care of Corizon employees. Another died in an ambulance during a two-hour drive to a hospital, despite a much closer hospital being available. Wexford Health Sources’ record isn’t spotless, either. Wexford paid out $3.1 million to settle five years of complaints in Illinois, including delayed treatment and low-quality care.

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Prisoner Death Shines Light on Private Health Contractors
Source: The Takeaway, WNYC, March 7, 2017

Nicholas Glisson died on October 10, 2010 in Indiana State Prison. … Glisson had complicated medical needs as a result of laryngeal cancer, and was under the care of Corizon Health, a private company providing medical care to prisoners in Indiana’s Department of Corrections. His mother, Alma Glisson, says he knew how to take care of himself. Alma blames Corizon for his death. What happened to Nicholas Glisson and what it means for private prison contractors if a jury rules in his favor is the subject of this week’s Case In Point story from The Marshall Project.

Prison health-care companies eye Indiana contract
Source: Virginia Black, South Bend Tribune, October 13, 2016

Some of the country’s biggest players in the increasingly privatized business of providing medical care to inmates have expressed interest in Indiana’s expiring contract with Corizon Health. Corizon, widely cited as the largest, has faced an onslaught of negative publicity in recent years, with a growing number of lawsuits and contracts ended in other states. Corizon and its role with Indiana’s Department of Correction was the subject of a Tribune series in June called “Profits over Prisoners?” Corizon’s three-year contract, worth nearly $300 million expires at the end of the year. Bids are due Nov. 9. Several competitors attended a conference last month for possible bidders. Among them were:
• Wexford Health, based in Pittsburgh and close on Corizon’s heels in the number of contracts it holds, has itself been the subject of controversy in delivering medical care in prisons, including in neighboring state Illinois.
• Centurion, based in Vienna, Va., whose contracts include facilities in Florida, Minnesota, Vermont, Mississippi and Tennessee.
• Correct Care Solutions, based in Tennessee as is Corizon, says on its website it operates in 38 states and in Australia. It also provides health care to Indiana inmates in some county jails, such as in Elkhart, Porter and Marion counties. …

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Faison bill would force review of Mt. View proposal

Source: Steve Marion, Standard Banner, March 21, 2017

The state House government operations committee will consider a bill next week calling for legislative review of contracts such as the one proposed by the Department of Children’s Services for privatization of Mountain View Youth Development Center. Meanwhile, Jefferson County Commission added its voice to the chorus of concerns regarding the DCS’s plan. … Faison submitted an amendment March 8 to his House Bill 224, which requires DCS to appear before the government operations committee regarding its performance audit. The amendment states that a contract entered into by a state agency such as the one to privatize Mountain View must be reviewed by the fiscal review committee. Faison, who chairs the government operations committee, said he has temporarily taken the bill off notice until a meeting next Wednesday due to an unrelated matter.

… The primary option under consideration by the state involves contracting with a current DCS provider to open a 60-bed “Level Three” facility at Mountain View. That portion would be “staff secure.” Youth would have more freedom inside the facility than at present. At the same time, the private provider would operate up to 24 hardware-secure beds in Charlie Unit, keeping youth behind steel doors and a razor-wire fence. … Miller said in late February that state officials plan to select a contractor for the facility before the end of the fiscal year June 30. DCS says the state can save $3 million on the plan – funds that can be used for “prevention services.” Local Youth Services Officer Barry Fain questioned that and other DCS motivations in appearances before Dandridge Council and Commission last week. …