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Our mission is to reverse the trend of mass incarceration in Colorado. We are a coalition of nearly 7,000 individual members and over 100 faith and community organizations who have united to stop perpetual prison expansion in Colorado through policy and sentence reform.

Our chief areas of interest include drug policy reform, women in prison, racial injustice, the impact of incarceration on children and families, the problems associated with re-entry and stopping the practice of using private prisons in our state.

If you would like to be involved please go to our website and become a member.

Sunday, October 07, 2007

TX Legislator Launches GEO Juvenile Prison Probe

Houston legislator launches probe of prison contractor
Legislator cites Geo's 'terrible job' at youth lockup that state closed


AUSTIN — A Houston lawmaker is launching a broad investigation into a private prison contractor after the state closed one of its youth facilities this week, citing filth, poor safety and health violations.

Democratic Sen. John Whitmire, chairman of the Senate Criminal Justice Committee, cited the "terrible job" Geo Group Inc. did running the West Texas youth lockup and said Thursday he plans to review adult corrections contracts the state has with the company.

Boca Raton, Fla.-based Geo Group, which runs eight adult lockups in Texas, was sued by the Texas Civil Rights Project in 2006 in connection with an alleged rape and suicide of a woman at the Val Verde County Jail.

The suit alleged jail guards working for the company have allowed male and female inmates to have sex with each other. The suit was settled earlier this year with a nondisclosure agreement.

Geo spokesman Pablo Paez did not return phone calls seeking comment, but earlier stated the company had provided quality services at the TYC facility.

On Monday the Texas Youth Commission shuttered the doors of its Coke County Juvenile Justice Center, run by Geo, and moved nearly 200 young offenders to other TYC facilities.

"When we saw what a terrible job they were doing at Coke County, TYC had the ability to shut it down and move their youth," Whitmire said. As for the Texas Department of Criminal Justice, he wondered, "When we find a failure to properly run a facility, what do they do?"

Geo operates four prisons, two shorter term lockups and a halfway house for the adult prison system. Prison spokeswoman Michelle Lyons said the agency hasn't had any "significant ongoing operational issues."

Whitmire said he found evidence that a 90-day lockup in Houston run by Geo was out of compliance in 139 of 395 areas in a recent inspection.

Lyons said Whitmire is referring to a 2006 audit, and all problems cited have now been cleared up.

Geo also supervises state prisoners in leased space in the Jefferson and Newton county jails.

TYC spokesman Jim Hurley said the agency's inspector general has opened a criminal investigation into the conditions at the Coke County juvenile facility.

Seven TYC employees have been fired, including several who were responsible for on-site monitoring of the Coke facility.

This was the only contract Geo had with the Youth Commission. But the agency has contracts with several other providers for various programs throughout the state, including foster homes and a program to teach parenting skills to delinquents who are pregnant.

Hurley said all those will be reviewed as a precaution.

"We are initiating an immediate onsite review of all our contract care programs," he said.

All the other state school lockups are operated directly by TYC staff.

TYC ombudsman Will Harrell, whose independent office was created by the Legislature earlier this year as part of the TYC reforms, praised the agency's leadership for its response to the problems in Coke County.

"They reacted with as much haste and decisiveness as anyone could have expected," he said.

Harrell, following a recent visit to the Coke facility, prepared a report citing feces-smeared cells, dirty bedsheets, insects found in food and some inmates being placed in solitary confinement for as long as five weeks.

"I usually leave these facilities sad," he said. "I left that one mad."
Real Cost Of Prisons