Friday, February 13, 2009

ACLU Action Alert; Investigate Reeves County Detention Center in West Texas


TAKE ACTION: Contact the Office of the Inspector General at the U.S. Department of Justice

The first two paragraphs below are supplied by the ACLU to be used in your plea if you choose. The paragraphs that follow [edited] were added by a former employee of The GEO Group, a private prison contractor who has become notorious for abuse and neglect at dozens of its facilities worldwide.

Please help these inmates. They are being exploited, neglected and abused by a corporatist system whose bottom line in profit. Moneys that should be applied to food and medical services, as well as rehabilitative educational programs, are being redirected to the company and county coffers. In the meantime, the human rights of these people (in this case non-violent foreign nationals being held in minimum security until their time is served after which they are deported) are being ignored.
To the Inspector General, U.S. Department of Justice:
As you are aware, RCDC, a federal Bureau of Prisons-contracted facility, has been the site of two multi-day riots since mid-December. Reports of inadequate medical care and other substandard conditions have been cited as a possible cause for both incidents.

One riot at any facility is troubling and rare, and because RCDC has been the site of two such incidents in as many months there is legitimate concern that serious problems within the facility may exist.
I used to work there, I know. But as a counselor I was seen as a "bleeding heart liberal." ALL of the money budgeted for substance abuse was diverted. I had zero funds to work with. I was even asked to provide fraudulent figures on the curriculum-based classes that were recommended by the federal contract, yet The GEO Group refused to purchase the specified curriculum with the excuse that our "local contract" permitted such leeway -- and even more basically, because the incarcerated population consisted of foreign nationals, not U.S. Citizens. Why then did they want me to commit fraud regarding the documentation of these classes?

Inmates used to complain to me that the night shift of corrections officers refused to come to their cells when inmates were pleading for emergency medical assistance. There were many medical emergencies exacerbated by this negligence -- as well as two deaths that I am aware of -- between 2004 and 2008, the time I worked there. The company made promises to address the inmates' issues, including food and recreation, yet nothing ever changed. Their unenlightened excuse was that these are foreign nationals and the taxpayers did not want to invest in rehabilitating foreigners. They were often accused of malingering but nothing could excuse the company's failure to investigate a crisis.

In a local television interview this morning, Sheriff Andy Gomez stated that these detainees receive better medical services than the general population of the town -- that "The GEO Group is doing a good job." Ironically, this is reminiscent of George W. Bush's remark in the wake of the Katrina debacle, "Good job, Brownie!" Incredulously, the sheriff even stated that the dental services were superior despite the fact that a dentist only comes in once a week and has time to see only 3-4 patients from a long waiting list. His disingenuous attempt at damage control comes after two weeks of stonewalling. Sheriff Gomez was simply repeating the sound bites given to him. Gomez, as well as the county commission on whose behalf he was speaking, is part of the problem -- Reeves County must share the cost for all these services -- they have been complicit in this gross medical neglect.

I urge you to investigate not only by interviewing current and former staff members; but also, by interviewing the inmates themselves. For obvious reasons, please do it in a way that protects their confidentiality. The privatization of prison services has led to abuse and neglect and the attitude of "warehousing" a population of human beings whose well being is sacrificed for the "bottom line."

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