Saturday, April 26, 2008

Whistle Blower Reports Allegations of Fraud, Employee Abuse, Racism and Nepotism at RCDC-III, Managed by The GEO Group in Pecos

PECOS, TEX: I was "escorted off the unit" Friday in an expected -- and predicted -- act of retaliation for going to the Sheriff to complain about the Deputy Warden's authoritarian attitude and about allegations of fraud committed under his direction in which case managers tricked functionally illiterate foreign nationals incarcerated at RCDC facilities into signing out-dated incident reports against them so that The GEO Group administrators would not incur the wrath of BOP officials for administrative negligence, a characteristic -- among others even more nefarious -- for which they have become infamous in GEO's central region which includes Texas.

Their most recent chicaneries have come at a time when GEO administrators are sweating-out preparations for the coming Bureau of Prisons audit that may make-or-break them as a private prison
contractor here in Pecos. They are feeling enormous pressure due to past poor performances on these audits, particularly in their Security, Case Management and Medical Departments, and have been ordered to correct deficiencies or "take a hit." To wit, either of the three parties to the contract [including Reeves County] may end their 10-year commitment with 30-days notice; but in the case of documentary malfeasance, the Bureau of Prisons can simply bring in buses without notice, load up their CAR-5 population of foreign nationals and leave with a thousand inmates waving and cheering out the Greyhound windows.

Obviously, the allegations include reports of an ongoing cover-up associated with the alleged fraud. Early this month (April, 2008), the Disciplinary Hearings Officer (DHO), Rose Rico, resigned at RCDC III, returning to her previous job at RCDC I & II, stating to friends that she "was being forced to do things against B.O.P. policy" by the GEO Group's wardens who administer the RCDC-III unit for Reeves County under B.O.P contract. The unit's deputy SIS officer (intelligence), Lt. Lozano, is also said to be under investigative scrutiny, having signed off -- with full knowledge -- on all the fraudulent "shots," as the citations are ubiquitously known throughout the BOP system. Both DHO Rose Rico and Deputy SIS Lozano may be culpable in their own right for either "going along with" what was demanded of them by their supervisors and/or for not reporting the expectations of them that resulted in the fraudulent documentation.

In either case, it is being alleged that the entire affair has been quietly swept under the carpet out of the purview of local B.O.P. contract monitors, but not before attempts to harass and intimidate an English speaking inmate, who balked and began documenting their fraudulent attempts against him, proved fruitless. The inmates allege that scores of them have been victimized unawares or threatened to comply.

The alleged fraud occurred five to six weeks after a "shake-down" in January of 2008, during which scores of illegal cellphones were confiscated from inmates. Disciplinary c itations were then issued; however, they were not presented to the inmates until March of 2008. But BOP policy required the citations to be issued and signed within 3 to 5-days of the confiscations or up to ten-days later on the warden's signature -- early February at the latest if they were to be in compliance with B.O.P. policy. Instead the alleged fraud was perpetrated up to six-weeks later showing signatures of the inmates to be in compliance with the original January dates required by policy. The inmates allege they were never informed in their native languages of the discrepancy in dates when they signed the citations in March with the January date affixed fraudulently beforehand on the top of the form or next to their signatures . Furthermore, they adamantly report they were under the assumption that, being out of compliance as per Constitutionally related requirements for due process, that the citations from January could not be served at the later date in the first place. They were simply ordered to "Firma le aqi!" ["Sign here" ] not knowing what they were even signing. I personally witnessed one such attempt to defraud an inmate in late March and I reported it within minutes afterward to Security. After my report, I never received another word of direction or feedback.

As it has often been said in the realm of politics, "The cover-up is usually worse than the crime." To make matters even worse, the warden and deputy warden may have already been confronted by B.O.P. officials once DHO Rose Rico, having been challenged by the onerous English-speaking inmate, letters of documentation to both his lawyer and to the Sheriff in hand, saw the writing on the wall and resigned. Thus, the rumor emerged among staff late this week that the deputy warden's new Program Director, Cecil Nichols, who supervises both Education and Case Management, is being made to take the fall. It is said that he has quietly and precipitously accepted a transfer to The GEO Group's new Laredo unit, about to come on line.

Aside from the obvious betrayal of his newly arrived friend Cecil Nichols (the inmates would say he has been "punked & turned out"), we have an unconscionable irony in the behavior of Deputy Warden Richard Subasavage. While he sees his corporatist-assigned mandate as one of demanding, threatening, brow-beating and choking the expected productivity out of us "lazy Mexicans" and "crybabies," all the while we are being overly "defensive" in the face of his authoritarian abuse, as he once accused me personally, as quickly as both his Head of Security, Major Ghant, and his Director of Case Management, Anna Ortega, resigned, having refused to accept the downloading of his own workload onto them, he appealed to his GEO handlers for help and they created for him a new position at RCDC-III, Program Manager -- the very friend who only recently showed up and is now set up to take the fall for him for the multiple cases of documentary fraud currently surfacing.

What a pall!

Notwithstanding allegations of fraud, Deputy Warden Richard Subasavage's job has already been on the line for several months after a steady stream of employees complained to the higher authorities in Reeves County (West Texas) about his allegedly racist je ne sais quoi, morbid penchant for the punitory delectations infamously associated with Simon Legree. He has allegedly lived up to the infamy of Master Simon in all but his notorious physical sadism by creating animosity among staff and destroying any sense of trust remaining after The GEO Group administrators before him betrayed promises for advancement to several veteran county employees. This his predecessors accomplished -- and he quickly followed suit himself -- by bringing in their wives at an eye-popping $50,000 to $75, 000 per position (in some cases moving others aside) -- in an apparent move toward nepotism that was overlooked by former county officials who are now alleged to have exploited the system in their own manner, especially during the time it was under Arizona contract.

The latter allegations heard all 'round this small community concern a company known only on paper as "Affordable Tools." Affordable Tools is alleged to have been more or less a ghost company operating out of an empty warehouse office. With nothing more than a phone and perhaps a fax machine, orders from the RCDC III Maintenance Department were "processed" by this "retailer" who then "tacked on a percentage" and passed on the Maintenance Department orders to legitimate wholesales with whom the Maintenance Department could have just as easily dealt with directly at the wholesalers' lower cost. The unnecessary middleman, Affordable Tools, apparently enjoyed the legal empowerment of the former County Commission who approved the contract on the recommendation of its County Judge, in whose name Affordable Tools is alleged to have operated.

At any rate, most of those involved -- or who knew about it but looked the other way -- were swept from office in the voter-directed purge of 2006. The GEO Group's local and regional administrators have, to date, remained unscathed by the scandal; however, despite that GEO continues to operate in Reeves County, they do so under increased scrutiny by a reform-minded county commission and county judge who have now taken over the financial reins at the prison, alert to GEO's history of shenanigans in wooing those who award and monitor county contracts.

To his credit, in his first months in office, County Judge Sam Contreras apparently refused to give further consent to a system of shady insider deals that might have involved him and the County Commission in the ethically dubious conflicts of interest set-up by their predecessors.

Despite that Affordable Tools -- and possibly other interlocutors of the same questionable ilk -- is now defunct, it is rumored that the FBI has the matter under investigation using a former maintenance clerk as a protected witness.

After the prison complex moved to full contractual BOP status, followed by Reeves County Sheriff Andy Gomez's removal/transfer of an infamously irascible deputy warden who stirred his own brand of conflict and crisis, Subasavage was sent by The GEO Group to Pecos from their Rivers Unit in North Carolina to clean up the mess at Reeves County Detention Center-III and to enforce the federal Bureau of Prisons' more rigorous standards.

To say the least, Subasavage has been overly zealous and authoritarian in his first job as deputy warden with The GEO Group, a private prisons contractor for whom he has worked for 15-years. To say that he has been closed minded to all perspectives except those from the opinionated infestations of a small group of sycophants and informants, falls short of describing a character defect that contaminates his otherwise gifted cognitive abilities.

As we stated earlier, Subasavage landed in Pecos under the apparently received notion from company higher-ups that employees at the prison are all "a bunch of lazy Mexicans," as he was overheard to say by one such victim of his abuse. At the same time, he assumed his job was to play the heavy in whipping staff into shape out here in the desert reaches of far West Texas where the Hispanic minority dominates the population demographics at 85% and is heavily Roman Catholic -- out here where the Protestant Work Ethic has apparently not yet been established by missionaries of American Corporatism, such as Richard Subasavage.

Deputy Warden," "Enforcer" and now "The Terminator"
can be added to his resume, especially where a "lazy" minority workforce struggles against a rapacious Corporatism come here to invigorate the native population with the requisite "militarism" recommended by Straussian neocons and Texas Good Ol' Boys alike. Yes, "Ya gotta use militarism [in the case of RCDC staff] where you have a bunch of lazy crybabies who need to be disciplined to get them to [higher levels of productivity]. Of course I'm not talking about you." This I was told by Senior Warden Kevin Moore on my return from the Sheriff's office. And, of course, I'm white. I naively thought I could lobby him against his and Subasavage's authoritarian management style. Then I realized who had poisoned the well, leading to Subasavage's racist comments concerning our entire community. But I'll get to that.

The various complainants include the Senior Warden's Executive Secretary, the Director of Training, our former Chaplain (who was subjected to an egregiously brutal FBI interrogation based on false allegations forwarded by the wardens), two former Majors who headed the Security Department, several case managers, unit managers, the former Director of Case Management and veteran of 17-years, numerous teachers, not a small number of rank & file corrections officers and me, what's left of a substance abuse education department completely gutted by corporatist money handlers and left to my own resources [ironically, which they used as their final straw against me].
"You can give them a Big Book and send them back to their houses for all I care," the senior warden stated to me and my work partner on at least two occasions to my incredulity and shock. There was nothing left for us to do but conduct our research after hours at home on our own computers and then email relevant current events, research articles and "ice breakers" in to work while working to establish a curriculum they refused to fund. In fact, their intransigence in funding Substance Abuse Education [and I mean not one red cent comes to us] has led some to question whether in fact there is B.O.P. funding allocated for the program but that it has been redirected by GEO money handlers into other accounts.

Did you know that many southern states have removed the word "corrections" and/or "rehabilitation" from the titles of their "Criminal Justice" systems? The Conservative Movement, promoting Law & Order and the privatization of "penal" institutions is of the punitive mindset that salvation and/or personal growth are the idealistic fantasies of "bleeding heart liberals." [cf. Abramsky, Sasha; "American Furies; Crime, Punishment and Vengeance in the Age of Mass Imprisonment," Beacon Press, Boston; 2007]

A good number of valued employees have simply transferred or quit their jobs and moved on.

To my knowledge, I'm the first to be "terminated" by them using the corporatist GEO Group's notorious "set-up strategy" whereby, in my case, obviously the case of a "whistle blower," the deputy warden threatened and intimidated normally non-litigious folks to write me up on minor incidents that we had worked through on a personal level (usually overlooked by supervisors), then used them in disciplinary hearings that promoted a predetermined outcome under the facade of standard procedures in the company's progressive termination process, none of which he has had the patience to wait for the proper appeals outcome before advancing his retaliations against me. In fact, I have not yet had the opportunity to appeal any of the forgoing "ducks in a row" he has personally aligned against me. In one instance, he intervened to make sure a witness could not appear on my behalf. He even recklessly revealed the company's carefully disguised nepotism by using his wife, the Director of Human Resources, to expedite my demise.

After I first visited his office, the Sheriff warned Warden Moore, Deputy Warden Subasavage and The GEO Group's Senior Vice President John M. Hurley, to lay off of me. Sheriff Andy Gomez, who is the ultimate county authority over the prison, made it clear in an on-site conference with the three that he would brook no retaliation. Nevertheless, Subasavage seems conspicuously self-assured and is refusing to back down. He even informed me yesterday at my termination hearing -- implying that he didn't care if I appealed his decision to Sheriff Gomez -- that if I won this power struggle I would be reinstated with back pay. He seemed to doubt that I would but was being extremely careful in his communication with me, as well he should. What he doesn't know is that I have a line of witnesses who have reported on his activity from the shadows, witnesses who have come to recognize the value of our common bonds as earnest, hard working, once-upon-a-time committed, creative and motivated employees.

Yea, once upon a time.....

It was his arrogant nonchalance that caught my attention. There has to be more going on of which I am not aware. It undoubtedly involves the deputy warden's own personal political power struggle with the sheriff that is now coming to a head. Somehow I have gotten myself caught up in his games of triangulation simply by virtue of inopportune timing and my orneriness in the face of authoritarian abuse. And, no, I don't back off like a good little employee when being yelled at or otherwise abused. It just riled him to fear and outrage that I refused to take his "authoritarian crap," the very phrase I directed at him before telling him point blank that I was going to see the Sheriff and watching him turn pale. I had unwittingly gotten into a row with Ray Pena, the maintenance director, naively thinking I could use universally accepted assertiveness skills to confront a man notorious for his abrasiveness with other staff members who then turned tables on me by manipulating Subasavage into an abusive triangular dynamic as his rescuer. In effect, Pena had been manipulating and lying to Subasavage who then jumped right up onto the "Karpman Drama Triangle" for all the fun it promised in demonstrating his masculine power in this circle jerk.
I cannot deny that I have jumped right up there with them. It is as if "the Fates" rule the lesser gods of this earth; at base we think of ourselves as the noble potentates of indispensable dominions requiring the defenses of archangels. Not a man among us is worthy of the Sublime Enlightenment that would lead us to a place of compassion, wisdom and humility among the Virtues. Nevertheless, "Greater is He who is in [us] than he who is in the world."

Now, there happens to be a power in the world of Reeves County that exercises a significant level of control over the money strings, a lawyer who represents The GEO Group in power plays like this -- former County Attorney Bill Weinacht. It is possible -- but I do not know for sure -- that the wardens are depending on Weinacht to weigh-in. The only problem is that my buddy, Bob Dean, the chairman of the Reeves County Democratic Party, defeated Weinacht's cabal of candidates in the March elections when he attempted a return to county power. Even more significantly, Bob defeated former County Judge Jimmy Galindo who attempted to oust him in a head-on challenge for Chairman of the Reeves County Democratic Party. The fact that I am going to the state convention as one of Bob's precinct chairmen and none of Weinacht's people could get voted back into office (after the 2006 purge), let alone get voted as county delegates to go to the state convention says a little something about my own bona fides, no matter how modest in status.

But Bob, even though he's a recognized veteran statewide, doesn't have GEO's money and GEO rakes in $400,000 a month from its contracts at the prison while Reeves County only recoups $200,000 from their BOP contracts after pay-outs to GEO. Now the county folks are getting more and more displeased with GEO and GEO is extremely unpopular with the county employees who elected the county folks to represent us.

Neither is The GEO Group particularly loved by their regional Bureau of Prison overseers, to say nothing of the Texas Senate Subcommittee on Criminal Justice and its chairman, Senator John Whitmire, who is currently investigating The GEO Group's many unethical, if not outright criminally abusive and/or negligent missteps in Texas, especially concerned with their 2007 fiasco at the Coke County Juvenile Center under TYC contract.

So, judging by the way the wardens are acting toward me -- basically just blowing me off -- I am guessing that the power struggle between the county officials and The GEO Group is coming to a head. The hopeful "sign of the times" in my sky late this week was the missing GEO flag in front of the administration building. Let's hope it means more than a worn out company rag and a new one on order. More significantly, there are also rumors circulating that BOP is pulling an unknown number of inmates in early May due to The GEO Group's inability to maintain the required number of employees, particularly within the Security Department. It seems that no one is thrilled with The GEO Group's reputation for employee abuse and under the table shenanigans to benefit "the bottom line" -- especially not the working class citizens of the Pecos community.

I believe the key player to watch is former County Attorney Bill Weinacht (or the current county attorney who is said to be his close confidant). If the county supports me [and to be sure, I only represent the latest in a long line of employee abuse victims], I have a job with back pay. Perhaps, Subasavage already knows he is history and has decided to use me in the symbolic language of authoritarian managers, communicating to the sheriff what he will unmistakably interpret as "the finger." I would venture to guess as well that the County Judge, Sam Contreras, is torn by mixed feelings. Contreras replaced the former County Judge, said to be Bill Weinacht's puppet on ten strings, Jimmy Galindo, who was forced out by BOP. However, Contreras came into office as Jimmy's "made man" -- probably only because he appeared to be the most potentially malleable of several less desirable candidates to both GEO and to BOP. I have no information as to the extent of Weinacht's financial support for Contreras. I certainly hope it was negligible, for my sake

Despite Galindo's past support for Contreras, and complicating issues for me personally, Contreras happens to hate both me and the GEO group. In fact, I think he probably loaths me if I correctly interpreted his expression the last we met at the county convention in Pecos. So it all comes down to "Is there any fight left in these county dogs?" Only God knows the ultimate plan and I'm sticking around to see this one through. If my paltry interests in all this can be salvaged, it ties me politically, at least in some very limited manner, to the Sheriff; and if I can add any strength whatsoever to his reelection possibilities -- even at my meager level as an outsider transplanted to Reeves County -- I will play the local game to the hilt on his behalf as well as for Bob Dean and Saul Hererra, my county commissioner. Of all the players in this continuing saga, Sheriff Gomez deserves a large measure of our gratitude. It has been his support alone -- owning virtually nothing to the County Judge and the Commissioners Court for their empty expressions of sympathy -- that has been a sustaining source of courage for me and for others under fire at the prison. He has provided many of us at RCDC I, II & III with a level of support that has been tangible, practical and constant. He has been a man who has been personable with county employees, a man with a culturally ingrained sense of fairness and respect, and a man who has neither withheld that respect nor his genuine positive regard for the citizens who work under him, even when our personal narratives contained scant promise of a favorable outcome.
"Oh how I love the rutting, the tackling and the ass-kicking of politics. It's what grownups do when they've become too old for football."

+ + +

When I first came to work in Pecos, and as I toured the region, I discovered in the powerful voice of Pavarotti, and in this particular aria by Puccini, an anthem to love and to life, to dying and rebirth.
The aria celebrates the paradox of the death of self as the penultimate victory in which we find love sleeping in our arms.
It celebrates the dreams of love we all share and the giving of one's self so completely to another, in a love so complete, as to die to Love Herself no matter that her name in this flesh is Denise
who stands enfolded in the wings of Michael, Gabriel and Rafael
at the Gates of Eden and the Gates Beyond All Gates
The metaphorical value contained herein transcends concepts.
Love is a spring gift of flowers and melting ice
felt with the entire nakedness of being
and pouring out from the heart to overwhelm.
To her we surrender our being, our will and our purpose;
and in that surrender,
a surrender so complete as to pierce our sides and our hands and our feet

letting flow forth upon the earth our very blood
and the blood of our ancestors,
blood lines formed of the generations upon generations of rebirth

-- and suffering --
that we finally merge as one
one heart
one life
one destiny
one breath of spirit across the desert dunes
Sweet Victory!
I have come home

The Prince
Nessun dorma, nessun dorma ...
Tu pure, o Principessa,
Nella tua fredda stanza,
Guardi le stelle
Che tremano d'amore
E di speranza.
No one sleeps, no one sleeps...
Even you, o Princess,
In your cold room,
Watch the stars,
That tremble with love
And with hope.
Ma il mio mistero è chiuso in me,
Il nome mio nessun saprà, no, no,
Sulla tua bocca lo dirò
Quando la luce splenderà,
Ed il mio bacio scioglierà il silenzio
Che ti fa mia.
But my secret is hidden within me;
My name no one shall know, no, no,
On your mouth I will speak it*
When the light shines,
And my kiss will dissolve the silence
That makes you mine.
Il nome suo nessun saprà
E noi dovrem, ahimè, morir.
No one will know his name
And we must, alas, die.
The Prince
Dilegua, o notte!
Tramontate, stelle!
All'alba vincerò!
Vanish, o night!
Set**, stars!
At daybreak, I shall conquer!


New Film "The Visitor" Tackles Immigrant Detention Issue

I was able to see the new film The Visitor at a pre-screening in Austin a few weeks ago, and highly recommend it. It follows a college professor who befriends an immigrant couple only to find his friend detained at private prison, which seems modeled after the GEO Group's Queens, NY detention center, after being caught up in a minor incident with the police. It's a pretty realistic look at the detention system. Take a look at the trailer:

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