by Kevin W. Bliss
Utah-based Management and Training Corporation (MTC) faces allegations of breach of contract in Texas, where the private prison firm allegedly forced prisoners to sign for parole-required treatment and program time they were not in fact provided. The scam allegedly began during the COVID-19 pandemic and continued even after relaxation of social distancing protocols that might have excused the failure to provide the programming – though not lying about it, of course.
Before certain Texas prisoners can be paroled, they must complete rehabilitation programming, whether substance abuse or other treatment, according to the nature of their crimes. Lasting three to nine months, these programs are supposed to help prepare a prisoner for successful reentry.
The Texas Department of Criminal Justice (TDCJ) contracts with MTC to operate 17 state prisons and jails – agreements worth more than $100 million in total. Those contracts obligate the firm to provide the parole-required programing.
During the initial COVID-19 lockdown, MTC had to develop new methods of delivering required programming that respected social distancing protocols. MTC’s answer, according to state prisoners, was not to hold the programs at all and simply forge the documentation.
LatinoJustice filed a complaint with the state auditor on November 21, 2022, accusing MTC of “fraudulent conduct and pandemic profiteering” by forcing prisoners to sign for programming they never received and billing the state for it anyway. The group alleged that the firm had prisoners complete work packets instead of attending counseling sessions, or conducted classes facilitated by other prisoners instead of qualified personnel. Moreover, the scam allegedly continued after pandemic social distancing requirements were relaxed.
“From March 2020 through January 2022,” the complaint read, “TDCJ paid MTC over five million dollars just for the programs in the three units LatinoJustice investigated most closely: nearly $2.5 million in the Glossbrenner Unit, over $600,000 in the Gist State Jail, and nearly $2 million in the Hamilton Unit.”
“These funds were obtained through fraud,” the group declared.
This would not be MTC’s first alleged breach of contract. Following an investigation by The Marshall Project, Mississippi state auditor Shad White presented the firm with a bill in November 2022 to recover $1.9 million allegedly collected for “ghost workers” whose positions were in fact left unfilled. [See: PLN, Jan. 2023, p.58.]
LatinoJustice is seeking records from TDCJ to see if its officials were in on the scheme. If so, TDCJ would be responsible to the released prisoners for not providing the help they need for successful reentry.
Source: Texas Tribune
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