Category Archives: Horror.Stories

FEMA faulted for failed contracts to deliver hurricane aid

Source: Associated Press, April 10, 2018

The Federal Emergency Management Agency awarded contracts for hurricane supplies without adequately researching whether winning bidders could deliver what they promised, according to a new investigation by Democrats on a Senate oversight committee. The investigation followed disclosures by The Associated Press in November that a newly created Florida company with an unproven record had won more than $30 million in FEMA contracts to provide 500,000 tarps and 60,000 rolls of plastic sheeting for repairs after Hurricane Maria damaged tens of thousands of homes in Puerto Rico. That vendor, Bronze Star LLC of St. Cloud, Florida, never delivered those urgently needed supplies. The report from Democrats on the Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs described failures by the Trump administration that prevented timely delivery of tarps and sheeting to hurricane victims after the summer’s storms. It focused on the Bronze Star contract and another awarded to Global Computers and Networks LLC of Fort Washington, Pennsylvania. …

Related:

Lawmakers seek probes of award for Hurricane Maria tarps
Source: Tami Abdollah, Associated Press, December 1, 2017

Democrats in Congress are pushing for investigations into how the Federal Emergency Management Agency awarded contracts worth $30 million to a fledgling company for Hurricane Maria disaster supplies that it failed to deliver to Puerto Rico. The senior Democrat on the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, Claire McCaskill of Missouri, wrote Thursday to FEMA Administrator Brock Long, seeking more information about how FEMA evaluated Bronze Star LLC of St. Cloud, Florida. The Associated Press reported this week that FEMA awarded the small firm contracts for tarps and plastic sheeting that were never delivered. The agency ultimately terminated the contracts earlier this month without paying any money, but the episode caused a delay of four weeks. …

… Meanwhile, Rep. Sean Maloney, D-N.Y., wants the Homeland Security Department inspector general to investigate. He sought the review in an amendment to the Disaster Recovery Reform Act of 2017, which cleared the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee on Thursday. Maloney’s amendment cleared the committee with unanimous bipartisan support, though it was unclear when the House will vote on the measure. The amendment specifically requests an inspector general audit of all contracts awarded for tarps and plastic sheeting for the U.S. territories of Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands. The review would include the contracting process used to evaluate bidders and award the contracts; the assessment of past performance and technical capacity to fulfill the contracts; and how FEMA ensures the contractors meet the terms. …

Paramedics Plus, Oklahoma agency settle federal kickback lawsuit

Source: Erin Mansfield, Tyler Morning Telegraph, April 3, 2018

A company with ties to the former East Texas Medical Center has settled a federal kickback lawsuit. Paramedics Plus was a subsidiary of the East Texas Medical Center health system that provided emergency medical services to an Oklahoma agency called Emergency Medical Services Authority. In January 2017, the Department of Justice filed suit against Paramedics Plus and the other defendants in the case alleging that Paramedics Plus paid more than $20 million in kickbacks to the Oklahoma agency.

… In March 2017, the East Texas Medical Center health system announced it would merge Paramedics Plus with a similar subsidiary and spin off the two emergency medical services entities into a new company. A month ago, the East Texas Medical Center health system completed a deal to sell its assets to Ardent Health Services, based in Tennessee, and the University of Texas system. The new entity is now called UT Health East Texas. Three weeks later, UT Health East Texas announced it would lay off about 400 employees, or 5 percent of its workforce, as part of a plan to bring the new health care system toward financial stability. …

Related:

Justice Department moves forward in its case against ETMC, Paramedics Plus
Source: Roy Maynard, Tyler Morning Telegraph, May 12, 2017

The U.S. Department of Justice continues to build its case against East Texas Medical Center and its ambulance division, Paramedics Plus, in what they say is a $20 million kickback scheme to ensure Paramedics Plus retained lucrative contracts. Most recently, Justice Department attorneys filed a list of people they expect to depose in coming months. In all, more than 100 people could be deposed as this case moves forward. The government also filed a proposed schedule, which outlines when fact discovery will take place, when expert discovery will occur, deadlines for motions and trial preparation and finally, an expected timeframe for the start of the trial – summer of 2018. … In January, the Justice Department announced it would intervene in a lawsuit against ETMC and Paramedics Plus brought by a whistleblower – former employee Stephen Dean, who was Paramedics Plus chief operating officer. According to the suit, ETMC and Paramedics Plus paid more than $20 million in kickbacks and bribes, including cash payments to Oklahoma officials. …

You Paid For It: Pinellas Commissioners discuss ambulance kickback settlement Tuesday
Source: Mark Douglas, March 21, 2017

Former U.S Attorney Brian Albritton told Pinellas County Commissioners Tuesday that a federal lawsuit alleging ambulance fee kickbacks could have cost taxpayers as much as $1 billion if they lost in court. Commissioners agreed to settle the case involving Paramedics Plus Sunstar ambulance service for $92,700 and to forgo an estimated $500,000 in uncollected ambulance fees from patients. They will also have to pay legal fees to Albritton who the county secretly hired last year to resolve the case. Pinellas commissioners discussed the case publicly Tuesday for the first time since Eight On Your Side first broke the story of alleged kickbacks and a federal investigation of Pinellas County’s ambulance contract last month. That settlement, signed March 7 by Vice-Chair Kenneth Welch, requires the county to pay $92,700 to federal prosecutors, the Florida Attorney General and attorneys for the whistleblower–a former executive with Paramedics Plus. It also requires Pinellas County to turn over all documents and evidence gathered in the course of the county’s own internal investigation, and to cooperate with an ongoing federal investigation and whistleblower action filed against Paramedics Plus in Texas.

… Since 2004, Paramedics Plus has operated as Pinellas County’s exclusive ambulance provider under the county-owned brand name Sunstar. The current county contract with Paramedics Plus amounts to about $50 million a year. In 2014, a former high-ranking executive of Paramedics Plus filed a whistleblower action in Texas that alleged an ongoing ambulance fee kickback scheme that stretched from Pinellas County to Oklahoma and California for over a decade. The scheme alleged by the whistleblower and federal prosecutors in a related legal action included so-called “profit cap” rebates that essentially funneled overcharges from Medicaid and Medicare to Pinellas County and other local governments that oversee public ambulance contracts. County leaders in Pinellas insist the “rebates” or “kickbacks’ in Pinellas totaled only $35,000 or so and ended up in county bank accounts, not someone’s pockets. In Oklahoma, the whistleblower suit alleges those kickbacks amounted to as much as $20 million. Federal prosecutors in Texas have cited specific acts of corruption in Oklahoma that include kickbacks, political payoffs and self-enrichment involving Paramedics Plus executives and government overseers in Oklahoma. … Pinellas County Administrator Mark Woodard says the settlement has no impact on the county’s ongoing $50 million a year contract with Paramedics Plus because the company has not been charged criminally or been found guilty of anything.

Continue reading

Inside a Private Prison: Blood, Suicide and Poorly Paid Guards

Source: Timothy Williams, New York Times, April 3, 2018
 
According to evidence and testimony at a federal civil rights trial, far worse things were happening at the prison than inmates strolling around during a lockdown: A mentally ill man on suicide watch hanged himself, gang members were allowed to beat other prisoners, and those whose cries for medical attention were ignored resorted to setting fires in their cells. So many shackled men have recounted instances of extraordinary violence and neglect in the prison that the judge has complained of exhaustion. …

Management & Training Corporation, the private company that runs the East Mississippi facility near Meridian in Lauderdale County, already operates two federal prisons and more than 20 facilities around the nation. The genesis of the problems at East Mississippi, according to prisoner advocates, is that the state requires private prisons to operate at 10 percent lower cost than state-run facilities. Even at its state-run institutions, Mississippi spends significantly less on prisoners than most states, a fact that state officials once boasted about. … Testimony has described dangerous conditions, confused lines of oversight and difficulty in attracting and retaining qualified staff. …

Related:

Clergy ask gov. to take prison from private company
Source: Terri Ferguson Smith The Meridian Star, Oct 13, 2014

In the wake of a lawsuit alleging neglect and abuse of prisoners, a group of Mississippi clergy is calling upon Gov. Phil Bryant to have the state take back control of the East Miss Correctional Facility, a 1,300 bed facility in Lauderdale County, west of Meridian.

The Mississippi Religious Leadership Conference drafted a letter asking the governor to end privatization of the East Mississippi Correctional Facility, according to the Rev. Tom Clark, who helped draft the letter. In a recent interview with Clark and the Rt. Rev. Duncan M. Gray, III of the Episcopal Diocese of Mississippi, Clark said privately run operations often do better than governments, except for prisons.

Workers allege criminal activity at Bridgeport Health Care Center

Source: News12, April 3, 2018
 
Enough is enough. That was the message from the union representing Bridgeport Health Care Center employees. Workers at the facility called attention to what the union alleges is criminal activity by Chaim Stern, the chief financial officer for the privately owned nursing home. Employees claim Stern has failed to pay the staff on time on numerous occasions since June 2017. … “Throughout this ordeal, Bridgeport Health Care Center workers have continued to show up, and do their jobs,” said Sharon Weller, of AFSCME Local 1522.  “That’s because they care about the residents and take pride in their jobs.” …

GEO Group sues Washington to keep privately run immigration detention center open

Source: Beryl Lipton, MuckRock, March 23, 2018

Yesterday, the GEO Group, one of the world’s largest for-profit prison companies, decided to push back against attempts in the the American Northwest to limit their immigrant detention operations, filing suit in U.S. District Court for the Western District of Washington against the City of Tacoma, Washington. Tacoma is home to the only detention facility in the state dedicated exclusively to holding violators of immigration and entry laws, the Northwest Detention Center. Washington is just one of the West Coast states actively challenging the immigration policies of the current Presidential administration. …

Related:

Private Prison May Have to Boost Detainees’ Wages
Source: June Williams, Courthouse News, December 7, 2017

Washington State can pursue claims that the private prison company GEO Group failed to pay federal immigration detainees the state’s minimum wage, a federal judge ruled Wednesday. GEO could not prove that the state’s minimum wage law as applied to detainee wages is preempted by federal law, and the state has a valid interest in pursuing the case, U.S. District Judge Robert Bryan ruled. Washington sued GEO in September for violating the state’s minimum wage laws. GEO Group is one of the country’s largest operators of private prisons. …

Detention center contractor asks judge to toss lawsuit over $1-a-day pay
Source: Gene Johnson, Associated Press, November 20, 2017
 
A federal judge is considering whether to throw out two lawsuits, including one by the state of Washington, that seek to force one of the nation’s largest privately run immigration detention centers to pay minimum wage for work done by detainees. The GEO Group, the for-profit company that runs the Northwest Detention Center in Tacoma, is asking U.S. District Judge Robert Bryan to dismiss the cases, saying Washington doesn’t have authority to bring the lawsuit and that the state’s minimum wage law is overridden by Congress’ decision to set rates for work performed by detainees. …

Continue reading

Republican congressmen defend $1 a day wage for immigrant detainees who work in private prisons

Source: Tracy Jan, Washington Post, March 16, 2018
 
A group of 18 Republican congressmen is urging the Trump administration to defend private prisons against lawsuits alleging immigrant detainees are forced to work for a wage of $1 a day.  The members say that Congress in 1978 had explicitly set the daily reimbursement rate for voluntary work by detainees in U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement facilities, and that the same rate should apply in government-contracted private prisons. … In the March 7 letter, first reported by the Daily Beast, the congressmen argue that the detainees are not employees of private prisons, so they should not be able to file lawsuits seeking to be paid for their work. … At least five lawsuits have been filed against private prisons, including GEO and CoreCivic, over detainee pay and other issues. The lawsuits allege that the private prison giants use voluntary work programs to violate state minimum wage laws, the Trafficking Victims Protection Act, unjust enrichment and other labor statutes. The state of Washington sued GEO last year for violating its minimum wage of $11 an hour and sought to force the company to give up profits made through detainee labor. … Inmates in Colorado and California have also sued the Boca Raton, Fla.-based company, alleging that they were forced to work for $1 per day to pay for necessities like food, water and hygiene products. …

Related:

Using Jailed Migrants as a Pool of Cheap Labor
Source: Ian Urbina, New York Times, May 24, 2014

… As the federal government cracks down on immigrants in the country illegally and forbids businesses to hire them, it is relying on tens of thousands of those immigrants each year to provide essential labor — usually for $1 a day or less — at the detention centers where they are held when caught by the authorities. … The federal authorities say the program is voluntary, legal and a cost-saver for taxpayers. But immigrant advocates question whether it is truly voluntary or lawful, and argue that the government and the private prison companies that run many of the detention centers are bending the rules to convert a captive population into a self-contained labor force. … Officials at private prison companies declined to speak about their use of immigrant detainees, except to say that it was legal. Federal officials said the work helped with morale and discipline and cut expenses in a detention system that costs more than $2 billion a year. … The compensation rules at detention facilities are remnants of a bygone era. A 1950 law created the federal Voluntary Work Program and set the pay rate at a time when $1 went much further. (The equivalent would be about $9.80 today.) Congress last reviewed the rate in 1979 and opted not to raise it. It was later challenged in a lawsuit under the Fair Labor Standards Act, which sets workplace rules, but in 1990 an appellate court upheld the rate, saying that “alien detainees are not government ‘employees.’ ”…

When Corecivic Comes to Town: Lessons From Elkhart’s Grassroots Struggle to Preserve a Vibrant Community

Source: Sydney Boles and Rowan Lynam, Medill Reports, February 27, 2018

In Pembroke, Illinois, it started in Hopkins Park; in Gary, it started right across the street from their small airport; in Crete, it was Balmoral Park. In Elkhart, Indiana, it started at the intersection of county roads 7 and 26. It was a stretch of weeds and snow next to the county’s correctional facility and its huge, methane-leaking landfill, catty-corner from the well-worked farmland of German immigrants. This unremarkable piece of nowhere, Indiana would have held over a thousand immigrants in ICE civil detention. They would have been held in a private, maximum-security facility with the capability to hold 60 in solitary confinement, encased in a total visual barrier. Would have — because Elkhart, like so many Chicagoland towns before it, said no. …

Related:

Here’s What Happens When Trump Policy Comes to Trump Country
Source: Madison Pauly, Mother Jones, February 2, 2018

…. It all started in mid-November, when local activists including Richard Aguirre, director of corporate and foundation relations at Goshen College, learned that the private prison company CoreCivic (formerly Corrections Corporation of America) was eyeing a location near the landfill and county jail. Within weeks, CoreCivic filed a proposal to build an immigration detention center that could hold up to 1,240 people awaiting immigration court decisions or deportation.The company was seeking to fill Immigrations and Customs Enforcement’s need for detention space to hold the increasing numbers of undocumented immigrants its agents were picking up in the Midwest. ICE interior deportations in the first eight months of Trump’s presidency had ticked up 37 percent compared to the same period in 2016, and the agency wanted beds within a 180-mile radius of four cities, including Chicago and Detroit. Elkhart County, Indiana, was in range of both cities, and CoreCivic, which gets more than a quarter of its $1.8 billion annual revenue from incarcerating ICE detainees, spotted the opportunity. ….

CoreCivic has history of complaints, violations Company accused of mismanagement, abuse
Source: Caleb Bauer, South Bend Tribune, January 29, 2018

Corrections Corp. of America’s stock prices plunged in recent years when the Bureau of Prisons began phasing out private, for-profit prisons amid reports of problems with oversight, safety and security. The Nashville-based company responded by shifting its focus to housing Immigration and Customs Enforcement detainees and rebranded itself as CoreCivic. After the election of President Donald Trump, who campaigned to increase immigrant detention and deportation, CoreCivic’s stock prices jumped. Now, the private prison company is angling to open a new ICE facility in Elkhart County. Who is this firm that’s promised to bring 300 new jobs to Elkhart County? Since its foray into ICE business, CoreCivic has continued to be dogged by ongoing allegations of mismanagement and abuse at its detention facilities…..

Brother: Cuban was healthy before dying of pneumonia in ICE custody

Source: Jeremy Redmon, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, February 20, 2018

The family of a Cuban man who died last month from pneumonia while in the custody of federal immigration authorities has hired an Atlanta attorney and a local immigrant rights group to investigate what happened to him. Yulio Castro Garrido, 33, is the third U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement detainee to die in less than a year after being held in detention centers in Georgia. The questions surrounding his death come as the Trump administration is proposing adding hundreds of additional immigration detention center beds nationwide amid its crackdown on illegal immigration. … The detention center was the subject of a stinging report released last year by the U.S. Homeland Security Department’s Office of Inspector General, which cited long waits for medical care and other issues that “undermine the protection of detainees’ rights, their humane treatment, and the provision of a safe and healthy environment.” … CoreCivic, a Nashville, Tenn.-based corrections company that manages Stewart through agreements with ICE and Stewart County, referred questions about Castro to ICE. Castro is the third ICE detainee held in Georgia to die since May. On May 15, Jean Jimenez-Joseph, 27, a Panamanian national with a history of mental illness, hanged himself with a sheet in his solitary confinement cell at Stewart. …

Related:

Immigrant dies after being held at Georgia detention center accused of poor medical care
Source: Esther Yu Hsi Lee, Think Progress, February 1, 2018

A Cuban immigrant held at a federal immigration detention center in Georgia died Tuesday, according to a U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) press release, making him the third immigrant detainee death in Georgia since last May. …

Private Prison Continues to Send Ice Detainees to Solitary Confinement for Refusing Voluntary Labor
Source: Spencer Woodman, The Intercept, January 11, 2018

Officials at a privately run Immigration and Customs Enforcement detention center in rural Georgia locked an immigrant detainee in solitary confinement last November as punishment for encouraging fellow detainees to stop working in a labor program that ICE says is strictly voluntary. Shoaib Ahmed, a 24-year-old who immigrated to America to escape political persecution in Bangladesh, told The Intercept that the privately run detention center placed him in isolation for 10 days after an officer overheard him simply saying “no work tomorrow.” Ahmed said he was expressing frustration over the detention center — run by prison contractor CoreCivic — having delayed his weekly paycheck of $20 for work in the facility’s kitchen…..

Michael Feinberg, a Founder of KIPP Schools, Is Fired After Misconduct Claims

Source: Anemona Hartocollis, New York Times, February 22, 2018
 
KIPP, one of the country’s largest and most successful charter school chains, dismissed its co-founder on Thursday after an investigation found credible a claim that he had sexually abused a student some two decades ago, according to a letter sent to the school community. The co-founder, Michael Feinberg, was accused last spring of sexually abusing a minor female student in Houston in the late 1990s, according to someone with close knowledge of the case who was not authorized to speak publicly and asked not to be identified. An outside investigation found her claim credible after interviewing the student and her mother, who both gave the same sequence of events. …

Can Immigrant Detainees Have a #MeToo Movement?

Source: Rie Ohta, Human Rights Watch, February 15, 2018
 
… Laura Monterrosa is a lesbian asylum seeker from El Salvador who is being held in the privately run Hutto Detention Center in Texas. Last year, she told authorities that she was sexually assaulted repeatedly by a female guard. When Laura said she would report her, the guard allegedly said, “Do you think they’ll believe you or me?” In December, the FBI launched a civil rights investigation looking into her case. Meanwhile, local advocates say that Laura is facing punitive measures for coming forward. According to them, Laura says detention center officials have threatened to keep her in solitary confinement unless she retracts her allegations – a terrifying prospect for someone like Laura who, the advocates say, has attempted suicide in detention.… ICE provides no meaningful oversight to the hundreds of private detention centers and county jails which it uses on a contract basis. The result is that immigrant victims in detention like Laura may lack meaningful access to justice. So, can Laura, or any detained immigrant, safely pursue her claims without retribution when she says “me too”? The answer depends not only on ICE stepping up to ensure her rights are respected, but on systemic reforms to increase oversight, transparency, and accountability in the system.