Tag Archives: Texas

New Texas Law Will Create A More Private Foster Care System

Source: Becky Fogel, September 5, 2017

On Sept. 1, hundreds of new laws took effect in Texas. A number were aimed at improving the state’s child welfare system. Failure to do so was not an option. … In December 2015, after a wave of reports about Texas kids dying from neglect and abuse while in foster care, U.S. District Judge Janis Graham Jack found the state’s foster care system was unconstitutional and deemed it “broken.” Fast forward to May, when Gov. Greg Abbott signed a number of bills to overhaul that system. The case hasn’t been dismissed. But one of the major changes to the foster care system that lawmakers approved during this year’s legislative session was already in the works before Texas was sued in 2011. It was originally called Foster Care Redesign – and now that Senate Bill 11 has taken effect, it establishes a model that increasingly privatizes the foster care system. The program will begin rolling out across the state soon. But the term “model” is a bit misleading, since the redesign is not a one-size-fits all program.

… The foster care model envisioned by Senate Bill 11 is already in use by one community provider. In fact, ACH Child and Family Services in north Texas has been at it for three years. … Over the last three years, the non-profit ACH actually lost money. Carson says they spent $6 million building up services in the region they managed. Considering this extra investment, does the state really need to privatize the foster care system to get better results, or did it just get bad results because it was underfunded for decades? …

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Abbott signs Texas bills on CPS, foster care, though federal judge may have last word
Source: Robert T. Garrett, Dallas News, May 30, 2017

Gov. Greg Abbott on Wednesday signed into law “landmark legislation” that he said would improve child protection in Texas. … Two of the bills he signed seek to give CPS workers more options after they remove children from abusive and neglectful homes. One begins moving toward a community-centered system of procuring foster care beds and services, using area nonprofits or local governments. By September 2019, in a total of five areas, the state would give private providers “case management” duties now performed by CPS workers. … The bill’s author, Sen. Charles Schwertner, R-Georgetown, and House sponsor James Frank, R-Wichita Falls, yielded to a decade-long push by foster care providers to be able to take over CPS conservatorship workers’ duties in those five regions.
… Skeptics have noted, though, that good early results in Tarrant and six nearby counties were achieved using state workers as well as the private entities. …

House approves Senate bill to expand foster care privatization
Source: Julie Chang, Austin American-Statesman, May 17, 2017

Scrambling to find a solution to the problems that plague the state’s child welfare system, the Legislature is one step closer to stripping the state of its responsibilities to provide major foster care services in certain parts of the state. The Texas House on Thursday tentatively approved Senate Bill 11, filed by Sen. Charles Schwertner, R-Georgetown, which would expand “community-based foster care” to two areas in the state over the next two years. The state would have to transfer foster care case management, including caseworker visits, court-related duties and decision-making on where children live, learn and receive services, to a nonprofit agency or a governmental entity such as a county or municipality. …

Battle may be looming over how quickly foster care bill outsources CPS workers’ duties
Source: Robert T. Garrett, Dallas Morning News, April 17, 2017
 
The Texas House sponsor of the big foster care bill signaled Monday he’s going to fight for his version of “community-based foster care,” including a slightly slower outsourcing of Child Protective Services workers’ duties. Wichita Falls GOP Rep. James Frank said in an interview that he made some concessions to the Senate by importing elements of the senators’ main foster-care bill on prevention and foster children’s medical care. … The outsourcing, long sought by foster-care providers, would not happen until the lead contractor showed it successfully has taken over placing all new or existing foster kids in a region. Under a Senate-passed bill by Sen. Charles Schwertner, a Georgetown Republican who runs the Senate Health and Human Services Committee, the state would simultaneously shift responsibility for both placements and case management to the contractor. …

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Taking the P3 Route to Reinvent Downtown

Source: Charles Renner, Public Management, July 27, 2017

… The past decade has seen a steady increase in the use of P3 structures, and 2016 was something of a watershed year with multiple high-profile projects coming online that address a variety of public needs, including a $1 billion water infrastructure project servicing San Antonio, Texas, the site of ICMA’s 2017 Annual Conference. In each case, the public sector identified a future need aimed at supporting the attraction of mobile talent, evaluated the limits of going it alone, engaged a P3 partner, and found leadership to achieve results. …

A Sioux Falls Renaissance … A key part of the updated Downtown 2025 Plan is increasing the CBD’s available commercial and residential real estate. To help accomplish this, Sioux Falls opted for a P3 solution to design, build, operate, and maintain a mixed-use facility with retail, office, and residential uses that will ultimately increase the density of downtown. …

Nebraska Innovation Campus and P3 … Located adjacent to the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, NIC is a research campus designed to facilitate new partnerships between the university community and private businesses. …

San Antonio’s Vista Ridge … As a result, the San Antonio Water System (SAWS) crafted the vision of a 142-mile water pipeline project called Vista Ridge that will deliver enough water for some 162,000 new families by 2020, providing a 20 percent increase in water supply. … SAWS opted for a P3 undertaking in order to engage private equity and much needed development expertise in securing and constructing a resource delivery project that requires roughly $1 billion in investment, thousands of private water commitments, along with the 142 miles of built-to-last water pipeline. …

Harris County Nixes Private Prisons

Source: Allison Lee, Houston Public Media, August 1, 2017

Private prisons usually get a bad wrap from advocates, for a lack of oversight. But, that wasn’t main reason behind Sheriff Ed Gonzalez shifting the department away from private prisons. … “Within three months, we were able to move everybody back in house,” Gonzalez said. … According to the Harris County Sheriff’s office, the department spent $4.5 million on outsourced inmates last fiscal year. This fiscal year, they’re projecting to spend just under $300,000 (for what’s been spent before the transition). … He says there are also other benefits to bringing inmates back in-house. “We have more control of what we’re doing. You know, the medical records, things like that,” Gonzalez said. Another benefit? Loved ones can visit inmates, without having to travel to other municipalities or cities.

Dozens Of Women Are Being Moved To A Private Detention Center That’s Been Called “Hell”

Source: John Stanton, Buzzfeed News, August 8, 2017
 
The Department of Homeland Security is transferring dozens of undocumented women to a privately run detention center in Texas that has a history of complaints against it, including overcrowding, inadequate food services, and even snake infestations in detainee barracks. … At least three companies have been brought in to operate the facility since 2015, and its warden was fired in 2016 after it was taken over by Emerald Correctional Management following complaints of squalid living conditions. Last year, the US Marshals Service began monitoring conditions at the detention center in response to attorneys’ complaints. … The Sierra Blanca facility is now run by LaSalle Corrections, according to its website. The DHS spokesperson couldn’t comment on why LaSalle was now in charge, nor could she discuss what, if any, reforms have been made at the facility in response to past complaints. …

New opposition to P3s may put Texas in a traffic jam

Source: Richard Williamson, Bond Buyer, May 15, 2017 (Subscription Required)
 
Once a champion of public-private partnerships, Texas has turned against the most common form – tolled highways – amid increasingly organized resistance. With the defeat of House Bill 2861 on May 5, Texas lawmakers slammed the door on 18 major toll projects valued in the billions of dollars. The bill was designed to speed funding for redevelopment of major thoroughfares in the state’s largest metro areas by tapping private investment. Proponents promised to deliver projects in a decade rather than decades.  Conservative politicians in the early 2000s led by former Gov. Rick Perry promoted toll roads as a palatable alternative to raising fuel taxes for funding new highways and lanes and as a way to accelerate the state’s economy. …

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Trump’s Public-Private Infrastructure Vision Rejected in Texas
Source: Mark Niquette, Bloomberg, May 9, 2017
 
President Donald Trump’s plan to invest $1 trillion in U.S. infrastructure with the help of public-private partnerships has hit a speed bump in Texas. Wary of public opposition to new highway tolls, the Texas House voted on May 5 to reject a bill that would have allowed the partnerships, known as P3s, to participate in 18 highway projects costing as much as $30 billion. The defeat leaves the second most-populous U.S. state unable to tap into the partnerships to finance the infrastructure improvements, even as Trump is proposing to expand their use. …

… The bill’s failure underscores the difficulty Trump faces in his bid to use private investment to reach $1 trillion in funding to rebuild roads, bridges, airports, veterans’ hospitals and other facilities. While P3 deals take different forms, they generally involve private investors accepting risk and responsibility for design, construction and operation of a project in return for a revenue stream made up of tolls, user fees or regular tax outlays known as “availability payments.” … Texas previously had broad authority for such partnerships, and some state entities can still use them for such work as building dormitories at universities. But in 2007, the state Legislature voted to restrict P3’s use for transportation-related projects and require that each new proposal for one be authorized. …

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. …

Texas Lawmakers: Investigate State Contract with Anti-Choice Group

Source: Teddy Wilson, Rewire, March 22, 2017

Eight months after Texas officials gave an anti-choice crusader’s organization a contract to provide low-income people with access to health care, there are questions from lawmakers and advocates about the apparent failure of the organization to deliver those services. Both Republican and Democratic state lawmakers are calling for an investigation into how a contract was awarded to The Heidi Group, an anti-choice organization that has no history of providing health care or similar services, and why taxpayer dollars are being used to promote the anti-choice pseudoscience of so-called “abortion pill reversal.” … The Texas House General Investigating and Ethics Committee will began holding hearings in the coming weeks, and Howard told Rewire that she has talked to members of the committee who indicated there should be questions about women’s health contracts, specifically the one with The Heidi Group. Rep. Sarah Davis (R-West University Place), chairperson of the committee, questioned state officials last week about the Heidi Group contract during a committee hearing. Davis indicated the committee will scrutinize how the Heidi Group contract was awarded, reported the Associated Press.

… The Heidi Group was awarded a $1.6 million contract to provide family planning services through HTWP; the former Planned Parenthood clinic site in Bryan was included in Everett’s proposal.The Heidi Group had never before provided health care services, and has focused predominantly on supporting anti-choice crisis pregnancy centers. … The Heidi Group also appears to be funneling taxpayer dollars to fake clinics. … Eight months after the The Heidi Group was awarded the contract, the organization is “quietly sputtering” and has “little to show,” according to a report by the Associated Press. …

Deep in debt, flood insurance program expected to boost rates

Source: Dylan Baddour, Houston Chronicle, March 17, 2017

The cost of federal flood insurance will likely rise for thousands of Houston-area homeowners after Congress hits its September deadline to renew and reform the deeply troubled program. The National Flood Insurance Program was created because private insurers couldn’t bear the risk of catastrophic loss, but the program is $24.6 billion in debt and struggling to remain solvent. “The program offers rates that do not fully reflect the risk of flooding.” the U.S. Government Accountability Office concluded in a report last month. … Congress tried to fix the problem in 2012, but the program lapsed for a month amid the effort, stalling home sales in flood-prone areas. The reforms that finally passed caused some rates to soar, so they were swiftly repealed. Now, a five-year extension is set to expire this fall, demanding fresh action. No one can say exactly what measures lawmakers will take, but one thing seems probable: rates will rise, especially in flood-prone places.

… The most likely outcome of flood insurance reform will be increased privatization of the program to relieve FEMA’s burden of risk. In a letter to flood-weary constituents last week, U.S. Rep. Ted Poe, R-Kingwood, wrote that Congressional committees are beginning work on flood insurance renewal, and that “preliminary plans allow private insurers greater and easier access to the marketplace.” … Virtually all reform proposals issued by industry groups call for increasing privatization of flood insurance, but that won’t be cheap. The federal program was created precisely because private insurers couldn’t bear the risk of catastrophic loss. A small number of private insurers have begun offering their own insurance in recent years, mostly for extremely high-value properties. … FEMA acknowledged in a statement that private carriers offer a viable alternative to the federal program. Still, without a renewal of the program this year, the agency noted it would stop selling and renewing policies for millions of properties nationwide. …

Raymondville correctional center repurchased by private company

Source: Tiffany Huertas, CBS4, March 10th, 2017

More than two years after a riot shut down a private prison in Raymondville, Willacy County commissioners have approved an agreement to reopen the correctional center. Commissioners sold the correctional center back to the private company, Management and Training Corporation, Tuesday night. “The county will receive somewhere between $300,000 to $450,000 a year,” Willacy County Judge Aurelio Guerra said. The prison is expected to bring approximately 250 jobs and about $2 million in annual property tax revenue, according to Guerra. Guerra said they sold the property after bond holders demanded payment of its $68 million debt. … Last year, the county filed a lawsuit against MTC, claiming the private prison company kept inmates in deplorable conditions. …. The county has decided to drop the lawsuit and move forward with this new agreement. Guerra said the contract will be finalized Friday.

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A year after the prison riot, company seeks new contract for ‘tent city’ in Willacy County
Source: Tiffany Huertas, CBS4, February 23, 2016

Originally called the Willacy County Processing Center, the Raymondville prison held people who weren’t legally present in the United States. “Nicknamed the ‘Tent City’ or “Ritmo’ (a portmanteau of ‘Gitmo’ and ‘Raymondville’), Willacy soon earned a reputation as one of the most inhumane such facilities in the country,” according to a report published by the American Civil Liberties Union of Texas. The report documented overflowing toilets, insect-infested sleeping areas and spoiled food. … Utah-based Management and Training Corp., which operated the prison, told CBS 4 News the company wants to secure a new contract for the Willacy County prison. With a new contract, the company could start hiring again and renovate the prison complex. A Willacy County official told CBS 4 News the county is waiting to hear whether or not Management and Training Corp. secures a new contract by April. …

Willacy County jurors award $47.5 million to prisoner’s kin
Source: John MacCormack, Express-News (TX), Web Posted: 09/21/2006 12:36 AM CDT

Gregorio De La Rosa was only four days from completing his sentence at a private prison in Raymondville when he was beaten to death in the prison yard on April 26, 2001. Late Friday, a Willacy County jury returned a $47.5 million verdict, the largest verdict in county history, in a negligence suit filed by his family against the Wackenhut Corrections Corp., which ran the prison, and the prison warden.

…… Calls to defense lawyer Bruce Garcia in Austin were referred by his office to the Geo Group, a Florida company that spun off from Wackenhut after the incident and operates the facility.

ICE detainees are asking to be put in solitary confinement for their own safety

Source: Spencer Woodman, The Verge, March 10, 2017

… Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) contracts out many of its detention facilities to private prison corporations like CoreCivic — formerly known as Corrections Corporation of America (CCA) — and the GEO Group, which have seen significant increases in their stock prices since Donald Trump’s election. Hundreds of logs obtained by The Verge through a Freedom of Information Act Request detailing the use of solitary confinement at three of these privately run ICE facilities provide a window into the conditions of desperation and violence that immigrants, including those diagnosed with mental illness, can face inside such detention centers. The logs show that life inside the facilities can be so dangerous and hostile that numerous detainees have voluntarily admitted themselves to solitary confinement just to seek refuge from the general population. In other cases documented in the logs, detainees were disciplined with isolation for perpetrating acts of violence, sexual assault, or disruption; yet others were placed in solitary for more minor infractions, such as charging detainees for haircuts or “horse-playing.” In dozens of instances at a Georgia facility, detainees were placed in solitary confinement for hunger striking; in one case, an detainee with a mental illness was placed in isolation at the request of ICE for reasons that facility officials writing the log readily admitted they did not understand.

Encompassing the entirety of 2016, the logs cover two CoreCivic facilities in Lumpkin, Georgia; Eloy, Arizona; and a third center in Pearsall, Texas, operated by the GEO Group. The logs were generated for ICE headquarters to detail two categories of detainees: those placed in isolation for more than two weeks, and those who had a range of “special vulnerabilities,” including physical or mental health diagnoses, detainees who had been the victims of sexual assault or those at risk for suicide. In total, the logs list more than 300 instances of this sort of confinement being used last year at the three facilities, with the Lumpkin facility deploying the use of this confinement at a significantly higher rate than the other two detention centers. …

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EXCLUSIVE: ICE PUT DETAINED IMMIGRANTS IN SOLITARY CONFINEMENT FOR HUNGER STRIKING
Source: Spencer Woodman, The Verge, February 27, 2017

Beginning last April, and picking up in the weeks following the November election, dozens of detainees at an Immigration and Customs Enforcement facility in rural Georgia went on hunger strike in protest of their detention. The private prison corporation that runs the facility, CoreCivic — formerly Corrections Corporation of America — responded swiftly to the expanding demonstration: as immigrant detainees refused to eat, CoreCivic staff began immediately locking them in solitary confinement for their participation in the non-violent protest. According to ICE detainment logs obtained by The Verge through a Freedom of Information Act request, more than two dozen detainees were put in solitary confinement for hunger striking — some simply for declaring they would refuse to eat, even if they hadn’t yet skipped a meal. The logs also show that CoreCivic may have attempted to gather information on hunger strike organizers through cultivating detainee informants, who were later locked in solitary confinement themselves for protection. …

KEY FINDINGS

  • Dozens of immigrant detainees were locked in solitary confinement after going on hunger strike
  • Immigrants were simply demanding to have access to their deportation officers
  • ICE has previously been accused of using solitary confinement to punish hunger strikes
  • Private prison firms like CoreCivic are set to benefit from President Trump’s policies