Monday, October 8, 2007

TYC -- Pyote/Coke County Updates

The West Texas State School case manager
who filed the initial report of abuse occurring at the TYC Pyote juvenile facility has been vindicated. Despite reporting allegations of possible sexual abuse passed on to him by juvenile residents at the facility -- an ethical, moral and legal obligation to report required of him by virtue of his profession, as mandated by the Texas Family Code; Chapter 261 -- he became a victim of the overlords of the system himself.

There is a tremendous lesson for us all in his story -- one of faith, perseverance and courage under duress. Today's Dallas Morning News carries the story along with background...

Billy Hollis [above], who reported inmate abuse by his superiors at the West Texas State School in Pyote, emerged from the attempts by former TYC officials to bury him. He recently was installed as assistant superintendent of the school, taking the job that once belonged to the man whose strange behavior he vainly tried to stop.
PYOTE, Texas – They're all gone now, fired or retired or under indictment, sent to their unhappy exits after nobody listened to Billy Hollis. Even the old office carpet has been thrown out, except the incriminating piece.

"I never would have envisioned this," Mr. Hollis said, smiling broadly.

He is the recently installed assistant superintendent of the West Texas State School, the remote juvenile prison operated by the Texas Youth Commission.

Mr. Hollis took the job that once belonged to the man whose strange behavior he vainly tried to stop. No longer are teenage inmates brought to the assistant superintendent's office for late-night porn-viewing sessions.

"It's a new TYC here," Mr. Hollis said....

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In related GEO Group news concerning the ongoing TYC scandals, follow-ups are coming in on the closure of the Coke County Juvenile Justice Center last week.

It appears now that public concerns regarding The GEO Group's contractual obligations with the Texas Youth Commission are spreading to its private prison contracts with the Texas Department of Criminal Justice* as well. We have this from the Dallas Morning News:

When asked about Texas Department of Criminal Justice contracts with GEO Group Inc., TDCJ spokeswoman Michelle Lyons e-mailed this statement [pdf]:

TDCJ contracts with GEO for operations of the Bridgeport, Estes, Lockhart and Cleveland units. At each facility, monthly unscheduled visits conducted in the last 12 months did not indicate any major findings. Additionally, there were 10 scheduled site visits to Bridgeport, 13 scheduled site visits to Estes, 14 scheduled site visits to Cleveland and 13 scheduled visits to Lockhart and those visits did not indicate any major findings. The site visits are made by officials with TDCJ's Private Facility Contract Monitoring/Oversight Division, based in Huntsville and Austin. Each facility also has an on-site monitor.

GEO operates the North Texas Intermediate Sanction Facility in Fort Worth, and the South Texas Intermediate Sanction Facility in Houston. Each facility has an on-site monitor. In addition, there were scheduled and unscheduled site visits to each of those facilities. At North Texas, monthly unannounced site visits in the last 12 months have not indicated any major findings, and a Security Review in July 2007 indicated zero findings of noncompliance.

A division level review was conducted at the South Texas ISF in June 2006 and a significant number of findings were noted. The review looked at 25 functional areas consisted of 395 applicable checklist items, of which 138 items were found to be in noncompliance. Each of those deficiencies has been corrected through verification visits and follow-up reviews, and 11 unannounced site visits conducted during the last 12 months indicated no major findings.

GEO operates a halfway house in Fort Worth consisting of 180 beds. Several incidents of offender/officer inappropriate relationships were reported at the facility and were investigated by the Office of Inspector General. Actions were taken related to the office misconduct. Additionally, it was noted that there were four offender deaths between January and April 2007. All deaths were of natural causes -- three due to heart-related conditions and one due to TB-related complications. OIG investigations did not indicate any suspicious activities related to these deaths, and the opinion for the cause of death in each case was due to the poor medical condition of each offender.

Note: TDCJ contracts with the Jefferson County Jail and Newton County Correctional Center for beds. Those two counties in turn have contracts with GEO.

We will continue vigorous contract monitoring of all our privately-run facilities, and are absolutely committed to working with the state leadership as they review contract and monitoring oversight issues at state facilities. We will use this opportunity to ensure our own system of monitoring is as comprehensive as possible.

In her last paragraph, spokeswoman Lyons was referring to the recently initiated investigations by the Texas State Senate Committee on Criminal Justice and its chairperson, Sen. John Whitmire [D-Houston; pictured above right]. [See related story in yesterday's blog of 10-07-07.]

The Dallas Morning News maintains an archive of stories pertaining to the Coke County and West Texas State School scandals at: Investigative Reports - TYC

*[The GEO Group-managed RCDC Complex in Pecos is under Federal Bureau of Prison contract and not under direct TDCJ authority.]
* * * * * *

Jail operator GEO's troubles not limited to Coke County youth lockup

Complaints by adult inmates similar to what closed TYC facility
12:46 AM CDT on Sunday, October 7, 2007 By HOLLY BECKA / The Dallas Morning News

The private operator of a juvenile prison, closed last week because of fetid conditions and alleged mismanagement, has similar problems at other lockups throughout Texas.

GEO Group Inc. manages more than a dozen adult facilities in Texas that hold federal, state and county prisoners. The Florida-based company shuttered its only youth facility in the state, the Coke County Juvenile Justice Center, after the Texas Youth Commission abruptly removed inmates and canceled an $8 million annual contract.

Among the complaints at other GEO-run facilities in Texas:

• An Idaho inmate at the Dickens County prison in northwest Texas slashed his throat after being held for three months in a cold, moldy solitary cell with bloodstained bedding, according to court records.

• GEO settled a wrongful death case brought by the family of a female inmate at the Val Verde County facility. Plaintiffs alleged the inmate committed suicide after being raped and denied psychiatric care, according to court records.

• A jury ruled that Wackenhut Corrections Corp., which became GEO, had destroyed evidence of an inmate's beating death at a Willacy County facility and returned a $47.5 million verdict against the company.

Holly Becka's DMN report continues......

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