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GEO Texas Immigration Facility Hit for Substandard Health Care and Understaffing

GEO, the world's largest private prison company, has been cited by the United states Department of Justice (DOJ) Office of Inspector General (OIG) for overcharging the Bureau of Prisons for contract services, abusing prisoners with inadequate medical care, and wrongfully disciplining other prisoners at their  Reeves County Detention Facility I/II at  Pecos, Texas. The DOJ report stated that despite a history of prisoner rioting in 2008 and 2009 in protest of poor medical care and inmate deaths in solitary confinement, GEO continued to offer poor medical care, short-staffing, and unevenly-applied discipline.

The BOP entered into a contract with GEO in 2007 to operate a non-citizen, low-security detention facility and provide both management services  for 2400 prisoners atone of the country's largest private prisons.  That contract provided for minimal levels of staffing, which if not met by GEO, should have resulted in lower payments by the BOP.  Inexplicably, the BOP agreed to waive the minimal staff levels mandated by the contract, to give GEO some "flexibility and discretion" to manage the prison. Prison experts also agree, however, that short-staffing puts both prisoners and staff in potential danger.

That's exactly what happened in 2008 and 2009. Jesus Manuel Galindo, an epileptic who had been placed in solitary confinement, died for what his family claimed was inadequate medical care. In protest, prisoners rioted, doing over $1 million dollars in damages at the facility.

Medical care at the facility was provided by Tennessee-based Correct Care Solutions, LLC, which was also criticized by the BOP OIG report for its persistent short-staffing, which raised  Correct-Cares' profits, but had a negative impact on prisoner health.  According to the report, "between February 2007 and December 2014... (the facility) was rated 'deficient' or 'unsatisfactory' in 6 of 12 award fee periods." The BOP also had to issue an emergency "cure" order to GEO in 2012 to bring its staffing up to standards, which had resulted in routine prisoner counts not being performed on a regular basis.

Bob Libal, of Grassroots Leadership, a prisoner-rights group that opposes the use of private prisons, stated, "The (federal) audit confirms...that (a)n extreme lack of accountability that created unsafe and inhumane system of incarcerating immigrants in inhumane private prisons."

The OIG report also was critical of GEO's practice of isolating prisoners it termed as troublesome in "J-unit," which was converted into a special housing unit (SHU).  The OIG said that GEO had to do a better job to guarantee "due process"  to permit prisoners to challenge what observers had termed arbitrary punishment, due to lack "special policies and procedures" justifying the more-restrictive J-unit confinement.


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