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Brush Correctional Facility
Brush, Colorado
GRW
June 21, 2005 Rocky Mountain News
Three states could pull their inmates from Colorado's private prisons by the end of the summer, spooked by a recent sexual misconduct scandal and squeezed by Colorado's own rising prisoner population. The state's five private facilities house about 2,700 Colorado inmates. They also contract with three other states - Hawaii, Washington and Wyoming - to hold prisoners those states can't, due to overcrowding. The private prisons have lost or stand to lose nearly 400 out-of-state inmates, which would be an approximately $20,000 per-day hit spread between two Tennessee firms who run them. State officials say they can fill the gap with 400 Colorado inmates waiting for prison beds - contradicting warnings the private firms sounded earlier this year - and suggest that facilities filled only with Colorado prisoners could prove easier to control. Corrections officials say it's easier to manage prisoners from one state, because they are all used to the same rules. Some states, for example allow cigarette smoking or conjugal visits, which Colorado does not. "It is always easier to manage a single jurisdiction population," said Alison Morgan, a corrections department spokeswoman. Later, she said the loss of out-of-state inmates "is not a bad thing."  Officials also have said out-of- state inmates may have fueled or contributed to two riots in the past decade, including one at the Crowley County Correctional Facility last July. Washington once sent more than 200 prisoners to Colorado. The state has moved all but a few to other states, a Washington corrections official said Monday. Wyoming will move its 54 male inmates - already down from a high of 300 - from Colorado by summer's end, a corrections spokeswoman there said. Wyoming has already moved 38 female inmates from a private prison in Brush, in part because of alleged sexual misconduct between prison guards and inmates that surfaced in February. Hawaiian officials are rebidding their contract to house 80 women who are in Brush. Twenty- one state lawmakers urged their governor in April to move those inmates "immediately," the Honolulu Advertiser reported.

April 17, 2005 AP
Lawmakers are petitioning Gov. Linda Lingle to move dozens of female Hawaii inmates out of a Colorado prison where staffers were allegedly involved in sexual misconduct with prisoners. Twenty-one members of the Women's Legislative Caucus want Lingle to increase state monitoring of the Brush Correctional Facility in Colorado and ultimately move the 80 Hawaii inmates to another facility. House Judiciary Chairwoman Sylvia Luke, D-Pacific Heights-Punchbowl, said she is concerned about reports that prison staff may be retaliating against Hawaii inmates following allegations that guards were involved in sexual misconduct earlier this year with inmates from Hawaii, Colorado and Wyoming. Kat Brady, coordinator of the Community Alliance on Prisons, said Hawaii inmates have faced unfair administrative punishments and had legal records confiscated. The inmates believe these are examples of retaliatory acts, Brady said. GRW chief executive officer Gil Walker has said he expects Colorado to increase its number of inmates in Brush, so the company won't take a financial hit when Wyoming removes it's inmates. "I don't think it will hurt us at all," Walker said.

April 14, 2005 Honolulu Advertiser
Wyoming will remove its women inmates from a privately run Mainland prison that also houses Hawai'i women inmates, the same prison where staff members were accused of sexual misconduct involving Hawai'i, Wyoming and Colorado inmates. Melinda Brazzale, spokeswoman for the Wyoming Department of Corrections, cited a recent series of problems at the prison in the decision to remove the Wyoming inmates from the Brush Correctional Facility in Colorado. Those problems included criminal charges filed against staff members and the former warden in connection with the sexual misconduct allegations, and revelations that the prison allowed five convicted felons to work there because their background checks had not been completed. Investigations by Colorado state prison officials concluded prison staff had been involved in alleged sexual misconduct with two Hawai'i inmates, two Colorado inmates and four Wyoming inmates. Two other members of the prison staff were charged in an alleged cigarette smuggling ring.

March 24, 2005 AP
Colorado prison officials are reviewing background checks for employees at five private prisons run by Tennessee companies after discovering that some employees at one of them had criminal records. State Corrections Department spokeswoman Alison Morgan said Thursday that five convicted criminals and three people whose backgrounds "merited further investigation" had been hired at the Brush Correctional Facility, a privately run women's prison where several guards face charges of having consensual sex with inmates and smuggling tobacco into the facility. Morgan said a former warden for GRW Corp., a Brentwood, Tenn.-based company that has held a state contract to run the prison for 18 months, failed to complete background checks for some employees. The failure was first reported by KCNC-TV of Denver. She said it appears that fingerprints for the guards that were sent to the Colorado Bureau of Investigation were smudged or otherwise unreadable. The prints were sent back to the prison, which did not follow up, Morgan said. Morgan said the Corrections Department's Private Prisons Monitoring Unit does not have the staff or funding to regularly conduct its own background checks of private-prison employees.

March 23, 2005 Rocky Mountain News
People with criminal records were hired to work at a Brush prison where several employees are facing charges for allegedly having sex with inmates, according to a CBS 4 News investigation. The Brush Correctional Facility is a medium-security prison that holds 250 women. GRW Corp., a private company headquartered in Tennessee, runs the prison and hired several employees with criminal records to watch over the inmates, according to CBS 4 News. The company has fired six employees with criminal histories so far. Four guards have resigned from the prison, and one has been put on administrative leave. The warden, Rick Soares, resigned Feb. 18, a month after the Department of Corrections first received reports of sexual misconduct. Three prison guards are facing criminal charges for allegedly having sex with seven inmates. Two other guards and an inmate are accused of smuggling contraband cigarettes into the facility. The list of the prison employees with questionable backgrounds includes 28-year-old Angela Gallegos, CBS 4 News said. A prison guard, she was arrested on a felony charge three years ago and pleaded guilty to misdemeanor harassment. Heather Henry, 24, was also hired as a guard. Her record includes arrests for harassment, domestic violence-assault, violating protective orders and child abuse. Richard Fairchild, 42, was convicted of domestic violence and violating a restraining order. Gil Walker, president of GRW, said these are the last people who should be working in a prison and should have never been hired. "We don't hire questionable people, and that's the embarrassing part," Walker told CBS 4 News. Walker said the company never finished its background checks on potential employees and didn't know their full histories.

March 10, 2005 Fort Morgan Times
Morgan County District Attorney Bob Watson filed additional charges Wednesday in connection with the prison sexual misconduct scandal in Brush. The new indictments include a charge of unlawful sexual conduct in a penal institution lodged against a second guard, charges of being an accessory to a crime against the former warden and charges against another nine current or former prison employees related to introducing contraband cigarettes into the prison and conspiracy to commit introduction of contraband. According to Watson, the new charges are not necessarily all that will result from his office's ongoing investigation of the GRW-owned private prison. According to case filings made Wednesday in Morgan County District Court, corrections officer Fredrick Henry Woller, 32, of Brush is charged with unlawful sexual conduct in a penal institution, a class five felony. Specifically, Woller is alleged to have engaged in sexual conduct with prisoner Cristie Maez. Also charged Wednesday was former Warden Richard "Rick" Soares Jr., 57, of Sterling, who was allegedly an accessory to the crime of unlawful sexual conduct in a penal institution, also a class five felony. He is accused of hindering the investigation. The pair joins corrections officer Russell Rollison, 31, of Brush, who was charged last week with unlawful sexual conduct in a penal institution. Other charges resulting from the criminal probe to date regard prison food service and other prison employees allegedly conspiring with inmates to bring cigarettes into the prison. Cigarettes have been banned from Colorado penal institutions since 1999. Those charged with introducing contraband in the second degree, a class six felony, and conspiracy to commit introduction of contraband, also a class six felony, are: Pania Akopian, 31, Pisa Tuvale, 35, Annette Cummings, 38, Janice Crockett, 47, and Jeannette Dillon, 38, all of whom have the Brush Correctional Facility listed as their address; Gail Guerrero, no age listed, and Maria Ramirez, 46, both of Brush; Charmayne Kalama, 28, of Kapolei, Hawaii, and Stannie T. Muramoto, 46, of Honolulu, Hawaii. According to Gil Walker, CEO of Tennessee-based GRW, which owns the 250-bed private prison, an internal investigation uncovered only consensual sex between the guards and prisoners. Alison Morgan, a state corrections department spokeswoman, said the DOC investigation revealed at least some of the sex as having been initiated by inmates. She said inmates from both Hawaii and Wyoming admitted to initiating the encounters either so they could be returned home or in an effort to sue the prison. However, a Hawaii attorney representing two of the inmates has alleged his clients were raped. The case was referred to DA Watson's office by the state corrections department's inspector general's office. The Brush prison, which became the first private prison for women in Colorado, opened in August, 2003. It houses 80 inmates from Hawaii, 73 from Colorado and 45 from Wyoming. Colorado pays $50 a day to GRW to house its prisoners.

March 10, 2005 The Denver Channel
The former warden and 10 other people at the privately run Brush Correctional Facility for Women face felony charges for conduct ranging from having sex with inmates to smuggling tobacco into the prison. Filings released by District Attorney Robert Watson show 32-year-old Fredrick Henry Woller faces a felony charge for allegedly having sex with an inmate. Former warden Rick Soares, 57, faces charges of being an accessory for allegedly hindering the discovery of Woller's conduct. Earlier this month, two correctional officers and seven female inmates were charged with several offenses, including introducing contraband in the form of tobacco. Watson said other investigations are pending. Soares last month resigned from Tennessee-based GRW, which owns the 250-bed prison in Morgan County, after a month-long investigation implicated several officers. The department's inspector general's staff reported to Watson last month that three officers had sex with four inmates from Wyoming, two from Colorado and two from Hawaii. Some of the women alleged they were raped, but investigators concluded the sex was consensual. Having sex with an inmate is a felony for guards. The facility became the first private prison for women in Colorado in August 2003.

March 4, 2005 Star Bulletin
Female inmates from Hawaii will remain at a privately run women's prison in Colorado where five officers face sexual misconduct and contraband charges, Hawaii officials said yesterday. A visit to the prison by state monitors last month shows Hawaii does not need to transfer its inmates to an alternate facility, said Richard Bissen, interim director of Hawaii's Department of Public Safety. "Incidents like this happen at facilities," Bissen said. "But that place is being more closely monitored than ever, and the women themselves say they are safe." Three prison officers had sex with a total of four Hawaii inmates, two Colorado inmates and one Wyoming inmate, according to Alison Morgan, a spokesperson for the Colorado corrections department. Two of the officers have resigned, and a third is on administrative leave. Investigations show the sex was consensual, said Gil Walker, founder and chief executive of Tennessee-based GRW, which owns the Brush Correctional Facility for Women, located in Colorado. One case involved two Hawaii inmates and a guard, who admitted to engaging in sexual activity in January in the prison library. Some civil rights advocates argue that there is no such thing as consensual sex between an inmate and an authority figure. "We have a law that says it's a felony. It's not consensual when someone is in custody," said Kat Brady, an advocate with the American Civil Liberties Union of Hawaii. Myles Breiner, a Honolulu lawyer who is representing the Hawaii inmates, has said the women were forced to perform a sex act for Rollison. Morgan said some Hawaii and Wyoming inmates admitted they believed having sex with the guards would help them get transferred to their home states, where they would be closer to relatives.

February 25, 2005 Denver Post
The warden resigned and five correctional officers at the privately run Brush Correctional Facility for women face sexual misconduct and contraband charges in the wake of a criminal probe. Warden Rick Soares resigned from Tennessee-based GRW, which owns the 250-bed prison in Brush, on Feb. 18 after a month-long investigation implicated the five officers, said Alison Morgan, state Department of Corrections spokeswoman. The warden was not implicated in the wrongdoing. The department's inspector general's office referred contraband allegations involving two staff members and one inmate and sexual misconduct allegations involving three staff members to District Attorney Robert Watson on Thursday. Three officers who were not named had sex with four Hawaiian inmates, two Colorado inmates and one Wyoming inmate, Morgan said. Two of the officers resigned, and a third is on administrative leave pending the outcome of the criminal case. Some of the women alleged they were raped, but investigators concluded the sex was consensual, sometimes initiated by inmates, Morgan said. It's still a felony offense for correctional officers, she said. She said some Hawaiian and Wyoming inmates acknowledged they had sex with correctional officers because they believed they would be returned home, where they would be closer to relatives. Others hoped to file lawsuits against the prison. Two officers and an inmate were caught sneaking tobacco into the prison, Morgan said.

Clark County Jail
Clark County, Washington
Wexford (formerly run by Prisons Health Services)

December 17, 2009 The Skanner News
In the wake of a required 60-day background investigation by local officials, the racial discrimination tort claim by three law enforcement employees against Clark County Corrections has expanded into a full-on lawsuit seeking millions in damages. The lawsuit, detailing more than a dozen instances of racist harassment that allegedly took place throughout the past 20 years, has been brought against the county by former Clark County Sheriffs Department Commander Clifford B. Evelyn, 58; former corrections officer Britt Easterly, 39, now with the U.S. Secret Service in Washington D.C.; and Elzy P. Edwards, 46, an unsuccessful applicant for Clark County Corrections who is now working with the Washington Department of Corrections. Evelyn is seeking $1 million, while Easterly and Edwards are asking $500,000 each in damages. A 20-year veteran of the corrections department who had recently been honored for his efforts to promote diversity in its ranks, Evelyn was fired in June after an Internal Affairs investigation found he had violated general orders regarding “harassment,” “courtesy” and “competency.” In the joint lawsuit against Clark County, Edwards, who unsuccessfully applied for a job at Clark County Corrections, alleges that the hiring process was unfair; Easterly, as well as Evelyn, allege they were subjected to a long-standing atmosphere of racist incidents and comments. Evelyn also alleges unfair treatment at the hands of Clark County Corrections Chief Jail Deputy Sheriff Jackie Batties, as well as management and staff of Wexford Health Solutions, the company contracted to provide health care services at the jail. Documents obtained by The Skanner News show that a former Wexford employee, who has since been convicted of stealing cash from a co-worker’s purse, filed a complaint against Evelyn this year that kicked off a chain of events resulting in his firing. Evelyn had for the past two years reported on Wexford Health Sources’ failure to meet the terms of their operations contract, including submitting a detailed report in writing delivered to his supervisors at Clark County more than a year before the county’s own performance audit confirmed his allegations. Elsewhere around the nation, in July of this year million-dollar lawsuits were filed against Wexford corporation and New Mexico state corrections officials by incarcerated men and women alleging similar problems – even deaths -- at Wexford-managed health programs in the state’s prison system. Also in New Mexico, a Black dentist won a racial discrimination case against Wexford in November of 2008 when the company was found guilty by a federal jury of paying him a smaller wage on the basis of his race. Clark County contracted with Pennsylvania-based Wexford Health Solutions in 2006 after problems cropped up with their former jailhouse health care provider, Prison Health Services. Clark County officials signed a three-year, $9 million contract with Wexford set to expire in 2010. Its May, 2009 report, prepared by the Institute for Law and Policy Planning, was intended as a performance audit. Several documents obtained by The Skanner News show that reports Evelyn had filed with superiors in 2008 about Wexford’s failure to meet the demands of its contract were validated by Clark County’s performance audit. In a series of memos to his superiors dated before the release of Clark County’s own report on Wexford’s performance this past June, Evelyn had outlined specific examples of the corporation’s failure to follow the terms of its contract with Clark County, from lack of a written operations manual to untrained staff, lack of medical supplies onsite and a tendency to “short” the jails’ medical services that forced Clark County to pay out more in resources to cover the gaps. The chief finding of Clark County’s own investigation into Wexford was that “the company has systematically failed to comply with the many complex undertakings included in its contract with the county.” Evelyn, Easterly and Edwards were unavailable for comment at press time. Clark County officials are declining media requests while the legal case is pending.

October 16, 2009 The Skanner News
Former Clark County Sheriff's Department Commander Clifford B. Evelyn, fired from his job in June of this year, had repeatedly detailed shortcomings by Wexford Health Sources in fulfilling the terms of their contract to provide health care to county inmates more than a year before the county’s own performance audit did, records obtained by The Skanner News show. Evelyn, an award-winning 20-year veteran of the Clark County corrections department, is one of a trio of men who last month filed racial discrimination tort claims against the Clark County Sheriffs department. Evelyn, who is seeking a $1 million judgment, was fired after an Internal Affairs investigation found he had violated general orders regarding “harassment,” “courtesy” and “competency.” Race and Law Enforcement -- Evelyn declined to speak to the press before a ruling on his tort claim, which alleges incidents of racial harassment from his co-workers, trainers and superiors in Clark County corrections dating back to 1989. In addition to Evelyn, tort claims for $500,000 each have been filed against Clark County by former corrections officer Britt Easterly, now with the U.S. Secret Service in Washington D.C, and Elzy P. Edwards, an unsuccessful applicant for Clark County corrections who is now working with the Washington Department of Corrections. All three are represented by Portland attorney Thomas S. Boothe. In September of 2008 the City of Vancouver settled for $1.65 million with former Vancouver Police Officer Navin Sharma, a native of India and eight-year veteran of the bureau. Sharma brought a racial discrimination case after being fired for allegedly making errors and “using repetitive language” in his DUI reports. He had previously won a 2000 racial discrimination complaint from the city for $287,000. Evelyn, Easterly and Edwards’s tort filing triggers a 60-day investigation into the claims by the county, and may be followed by a lawsuit. Report Backs Up Whistleblower -- Clark County contracted with Pennsylvania-based Wexford Health Solutions in 2006 after problems cropped up with their former jailhouse health care provider, Prison Health Services. Clark County officials signed a three-year, $9 million contract with Wexford set to expire in 2010. the county’s May, 2009 report, prepared by the Institute for Law and Policy Planning, was intended as a performance audit. Several documents obtained by The Skanner News show that memos Evelyn had filed with superiors in 2008 about Wexford’s failure to meet the demands of its contract were later validated by Clark County’s audit. In a series of memos to his superiors dated before the public release of Clark County’s own report on Wexford’s performance this past June, Evelyn outlined specific examples of the corporation’s failure to follow the terms of its contract with Clark County, They range from lack of a written operations manual, to consistent deployment of untrained staff, lack of medical supplies onsite and a tendency to “short” the jails’ medical services that forced Clark County to pay out more in resources to cover the gaps. “In February 2007 Clark County awarded the inmate health contract to Wexford Health Source, Inc.,” Evelyn wrote in a July, 2008, memo to Gene Pearce, Clark County deputy prosecuting attorney. “Since that time there have been numerous issue(s) whereas Wexford has not met the terms of the contract and in many cases violated contractual terms leading to concerns surrounding liability for the Sheriff’s office.” The chief finding of Clark County’s investigation into Wexford was that “the company has systematically failed to comply with the many complex undertakings included in its contract with the county.” Consistent Problems -- The issues raised by Evelyn, as well as the county’s report, are echoed in recent lawsuits against Wexler filed this past summer in New Mexico. Evelyn’s laundry list of Wexford’s contract violations included the lack of any operating manual or written procedures; inadequate staffing and medical supplies; inadequate training and oversight for medical employees; delays in providing medicine and services to chronically-ill inmates; promotion of workers into positions where they were not properly licensed, and even a refusal by some mental health counselors to provide services to inmates they “didn’t like.” Clark County’s investigation singled out the lack of a policies and procedures manual; lack of a staff management improvement program that Wexford had pledged to institute as part of its initial bid for the contract; staffing, management and communication failures; inadequate staffing levels; lack of training; problems with licenses and credentials; inadequate medical records and obstacles in pharmacy arrangements between Wexford and the corrections staff. Meanwhile, the Albuquerque Journal newspaper reported on July 17 of this year that a Wexford doctor, as well as state corrections officials, are being sued for medical malpractice in the case of a prisoner denied adequate treatment. The newspaper has also reported on numerous other charges that have been filed in New Mexico alleging sexual assault by a Wexford mental health counselor. The lawsuit and charges followed a 2007 performance audit that faulted Wexford’s operations in the Southwestern state.

Crowley County Correctional Facility
Olney Springs, Colorado
CCA (formerly Dominion)
August 25, 2005 Westword
Slow burn: The 2004 Crowley riot caused extensive fire damage. When all hell broke loose last year at the Crowley County Correctional Facility, a private prison on Colorado's eastern plains, Vance Adams stayed very, very quiet. From his cell door, Adams could see prisoners armed with weight bars running in and out of his unit, smashing windows, busting up plumbing, setting fires and raiding offices and vending machines. "They looked like they were having a good time," Adams says. "But I wasn't." After a confrontation in the yard on July 20, 2004, the understaffed guards evacuated quickly, leaving the inmates free to rampage for hours, causing millions of dollars' worth of damage. Adams, serving a five-year sentence on drug and escape charges, soaked some towels to try to block smoke and tear gas from his cell. Prison and state Special Operations Response Teams (SORT) arrived in the unit around midnight and ordered everyone to put their hands on their heads and crawl backward, face down. When Adams tried to sign the orders to his cellmate, who is deaf, the officers became more belligerent, he says. "I screamed back at them, 'My roommate is deaf!'" he recalls. "They calmed down a little bit, but I guess I wasn't crawling fast enough." Adams says he was tightly cuffed, dragged by his ankles through the water flooding the unit, hauled outside and thrown on the grass of the prison ball field, where he remained until mid-morning. Older prisoners around him were passing out; others cried out for medical attention after being sprayed with birdshot, pepper gas or rubber bullets. "When the SORT officers cuffed me, they broke my wrist," reads the affidavit of inmate Terry Borrowdale. "They left me cuffed with a fractured wrist for four to five hours, until I was taken by ambulance to a hospital in Pueblo.... When I told the SORT officers that I am almost sixty years old and had no part in the riot, one officer answered, 'This is what you all deserve for what you have done.'" Bad as the riot was, many prisoners say they suffered greater injuries from the aftermath of the disturbance, as officers from the Colorado Department of Corrections and Corrections Corporation of America, the private prison operator, regained control. A group of more than eighty inmates is filing a lawsuit against CCA this week, claiming the company let conditions deteriorate before the riot, then brutalized men who didn't participate in the uprising. Prisoners claim they were assaulted by officers, shot (with live ammo, in at least one case) while fleeing burning buildings or trying to surrender, denied medical treatment, forced to strip in front of female staff and denied showers for up to a week after the incident. Trial Lawyers for Public Justice, a Washington-based public-interest group, has joined Boulder attorney Bill Trine in representing the inmates. The attorneys have obtained thousands of pages of the state's investigation of the riot and are seeking access to videotapes made by staff. "There's absolutely no question about what happened during the riot," Trine says, "and there's a lot pointing the finger at CCA. They had to get the riot under control, but what they did afterward was to punish everybody, whether they were involved in the riot or not." The Colorado DOC's after-action report on the riot blasted CCA management for ignoring state inspectors' recommendations before the riot, for inadequate staff training and for pitiful emergency-response procedures. The report noted that SORT teams fired hundreds of rounds of buckshot, birdshot and rubber bullets -- as well as slugs, smoke grenades, "stingballs" and pepper-spray canisters -- but concluded that "reasonable force was used" to regain control of the prison. But since that report was released, the DOC has also come under fire from state auditors for failing to adequately monitor the private prison. As first reported in Westword last year, visits by DOC monitors were often shorter than required and suffered from a lack of followup on critical issues such as poor food, skimpy portions, chronic staff turnover and abysmal inmate morale ("Going Off," December 23, 2004). Investigative files obtained by the prisoners' attorneys indicate that DOC and CCA staff received more warnings from inmates of an upcoming disturbance than previously acknowledged. One counselor told investigators that several staff members had turned in reports on the matter but "the administration seemed more concerned about who the [source] was than about the information on a potential riot." At the time of the riot, Crowley held 1,122 inmates, including some from Washington and Wyoming as well as Colorado, but had only 47 employees on duty. Although the riot was triggered by an alleged misuse of force on a Washington inmate, investigators found that inmates had a wide array of grievances, from the disparity in treatment of inmates from different states to rotten food. Investigators sampled the food in the dining hall and "found it to be of very poor quality and distasteful." After the riot, prisoners say, they were kicked and struck by guards while cuffed, dragged face-down through vomit or feces-tainted water, and threatened with more violence. An inmate named Arnold Wyrick claims he was denied access to a bathroom, had to defecate in his pants, and was forced to wear the soiled clothing for eight hours while guards called him "Mr. Shitty Pants" and asked, "Does the little baby need a diaper?" The investigative files also indicate that some prisoners performed heroically during the riot. Inmates in one honor pod repelled rioters who tried to enter their house and manned a bucket brigade to put out fires. Afterward, they were shoved into overcrowded cells with no mattresses or shipped off to more restrictive prisons or county jails. The prison was locked down for nearly a month after the riot. Recently paroled inmates say that conditions at Crowley are no better than before, and possibly worse, with limited access to recreation and to the DOC's monitors. "I rarely saw a monitor around," says Adams, who's now in a Denver halfway house. "They'd have us cleaning the place a day before any inspection." Inmate Oscar Barron, who left Crowley last spring and is now on parole on a robbery charge, says staff training is still a sore point. "They've got guys right out of high school and old ladies," he says. "Come on. Are they going to protect you if something happens?" The DOC did not respond to questions about its officers' alleged mistreatment of handcuffed inmates. CCA spokesman Steve Owen hadn't seen a copy of the complaint and declined to comment on the specifics of the lawsuit. "CCA will aggressively defend the complaint," he says. "Beyond that, we believe the most appropriate venue to respond is through proper court filings rather than by way of public comment."
Adele Kimmel, staff attorney for Trial Lawyers for Public Justice, says her group became involved in the case because of a lack of "significant reform" in the way CCA manages its four prisons in southeastern Colorado. "We think the lawsuit is the best mechanism for holding CCA accountable and preventing future riots," she says.

August 25, 2005 Rocky Mountain News
Vance Adams had been worried for weeks that something was going to happen at the Crowley County Correctional Facility, the privately run prison where he was incarcerated, and on the night of July 20, 2004, those fears were realized when fellow inmates went wild. First he saw prisoners smashing glass inside the prison. Then he looked out the window of his cell and saw flames - one of several blazes lit that night by rioting inmates. "We were scared," he said. "We didn't know what to do." But as frightened as he was of marauding inmates, the treatment he and other prisoners endured at the hands of guards was similarly stressful, he said Wednesday. Those guards, he alleged, dragged him and another prisoner out of their cell by their ankles, cinched their wrists tightly with plastic bands, left them for hours with no water, and told them to urinate in their pants when they asked to use a restroom. Adams is among 86 current and former inmates of the Crowley County Correctional Facility in southeast Colorado who have sued its operator, Corrections Corp. of America. The inmates allege negligence on the part of prison staff leading up to the riot, use of excessive force during and after the violent outbreak, and inhumane treatment of prisoners who had nothing to do with the fracas. Bill Trine, a Boulder attorney representing the inmates, repeatedly charged Corrections Corp. of America with ignoring warnings in the days leading up to the riot. For example, he said, the transfer of 198 inmates from Washington state to Crowley County heightened tensions. He said that happened, in part, because the out-of-state prisoners resented the corresponding loss of privileges. Also contributing was resentment among Colorado prisoners who were paid substantially less for the work they did - $18.60 a month vs. $60 a month for Washington prisoners. Trine also made public documents compiled by the state's Office of Inspector General that showed prison officials were warned in the days before the riot that trouble was likely. Among the documents was a report from an addiction counselor who said she had been alerted by inmates that tensions had escalated and that "people were going to get hurt." The counselor filed a report with a superior and later told investigators that others also had alerted prison staff "with information from inmates who told them that there was going to be a riot." Those warnings, Trine said, were ignored. "The net result," he said, "was the riot did occur."

October 13, 2004 Rocky Mountain News
The staff of the privately operated Crowley County Correctional Facility was severely undermanned and too undertrained and inexperienced to control inmates on the evening of July 20, when hundreds erupted into a nightlong riot. So said the state Department of Corrections in a searing report Tuesday on the prison in Olney Springs, owned and operated by Corrections Corporation of America with a contract to house inmates from Colorado and other states.  The prison had a uniformed staff of only 33 officers for its 1,122 inmates on the evening of the riot, a ratio of 34 inmates per officer. That compares with a ratio of five inmates per officer in Colorado's state-operated prisons. Corrections Corporation of America has not released a damage estimate for the prison, which it owns and must repair with its own funds. Repairs have not been completed and 30 percent of the prison remains closed. CCA must also reimburse the state $385,000 for the prison system's Special Operations Response Team and other state personnel and expenses in quelling the riot. Not even basic prison operational procedures were maintained at the prison, the report charged. The prison had failed to satisfy state prison officials' demands to create an emergency plan or maintain an emergency response team, the report stated. On the night of the riot, the prison was "not fully staffed," and some of its staff had been "on the job for two days or less."
Once the riot erupted, chaos reigned. Prison supervisors reported that the entire staff was accounted for, although two corrections officers were trapped inside the prison and sought safety in a segregation cell. The female librarian was stranded in the library with 37 inmates, who did not join the riot. A private prison corrections officer's pay is about two-thirds that of state prison officers - $1,818 per month, compared with $2,774 per month, and staff turnover is about twice the rate as in state prisons. CCA has told the state it maintains an approximately 8-to-1 inmate to corrections officer ratio, but it was far off that staffing strength on July 20. CONCLUSIONS • Turnover: High staff turnover and inexperience hampered response to emergencies. • Staff: Prison was not fully staffed at the time of the riot, and some employees had been on the job only two days or less. • Response: Prison staff's response to the initial incident was indecisive and failed to comply with orders from a state Department of Corrections official. • Drills: Emergency drills were rarely conducted. Prison staff failed to maintain a recommended percentage of emergency response team members. • Prisoners: Prison staff did not respond to inmate grievances in a timely manner. • Security: Fundamental security measures were not consistently followed.

October 13, 2004 Pueblo Chieftain
Administrators of the privately run Crowley County Correctional Facility knew or should have known about potential problems that led to a July 20 inmate riot, a new report revealed Tuesday. The Colorado Department of Corrections report on the riot said the 1,130-inmate facility, one of five private prisons in the state, lacked state-required equipment, failed to follow DOC regulations at times, had insufficiently trained guards and no adequate plan to deal with crisis situations. The 179-page report to Gov. Bill Owens revealed that: Prison management failed to comply with deficiencies and recommendations that DOC inspectors told them about before the riot. High staff attrition and inexperience contributed to a lack of ability to respond to emergencies. The prison failed to adhere to DOC-mandated menus. Fundamental security measures were not consistently followed. Construction materials used to build cells were too easily destroyed. The prison's initial response to the riot was indecisive. The report noted that the riot, which left scores injured but no deaths, was sparked by a number of factors, at least one of which was not the fault of the prison operators. Because the prison housed inmates from other states - Wyoming and Washington - there was a disparity in the monthly wage out-of-state inmates earned over Colorado prisoners.
" Buying power is strongest, therefore, among Washington and Wyoming inmates," according to the report, written by DOC prisons director Nolin Renfrow, legislative liaison Cherri Greco and prisons operations manager Anna Cooper. Additionally, in the six months before the riot, DOC inspectors - known as the private prison monitoring unit - cited numerous issues with the prison operators, including food preparation programs, accuracy and timeliness of reports and inadequate tracking of security threat intelligence. At one point during the riot, Renfrow ordered the prison to use chemical agents to disperse the inmates, but the prison delayed doing so because it was seeking approval from its corporate headquarters in Nashville. The report also revealed that the prison's level of emergency preparedness was lacking in several areas: It wasn't fully staffed. Some employees had been on staff for two days or less when the riot broke out. Because it had not developed an emergency preparedness plan to DOC standards, some prison guards and managers were unsure what to do. It rarely conducted riot drills. When one was conducted, a staff member unaware that a drill was under way "drew a weapon" on an inmate, the report said. "The prison riot of July 20 at the Crowley County Correctional Facility began with a disturbance which, in retrospect, was not responded to as quickly and efficiently as possible, thus developing into a riot. Some dynamics among the inmate population, perception that inmate complaints were not being heard, and use of force by CCCF staff likely all contributed to the onset of the incident."

September 22, 2004 Pueblo Chieftain
Part of the problem in managing rioting inmates at a private prison in Crowley County in July was that the facility had a 45 percent turnover rate in employees, state corrections officials told lawmakers Tuesday. A day after a Colorado Department of Corrections spokeswoman told The Pueblo Chieftain that DOC doesn't routinely track employment matters at private prisons, the DOC's director of prisons, Nolin Renfrow, told the legislative Joint Budget Committee that one of the things under investigation is the prison's high turnover rate.
DOC wants to know if that high rate contributed to the riot among 500 inmates July 20 at the Crowley County Correctional Facility in Olney Springs, which is operated by Corrections Corp. of America. "We know that it was 45 percent at this particular facility," Renfrow told the six-member panel that requested a review of DOC's investigation of the riot. "Over the past few years, we have monitored their turnover as a whole. I think ours is around 8 to 10 percent. I think they have averaged 20 to 25 percent turnover in the past few years across CCA (in the state)." At one point before he arrived at the Crowley prison, Renfrow said he ordered staff workers to spray crowd-controlling chemicals into the main yard where many prisoners were rioting. "The word we received back (after giving the order) was that CCA was trying to get authorization to do that from their headquarters," Renfrow said. "Over the next two to three hours, I continued to repeat my orders as I was driving to the facility from Colorado Springs. Eventually, when our staff arrived, we did do that and the inmates were brought under control." "The (high turnover rate) generally means that tenured staff is generally low, and when tenured staff is very low, sometimes they have difficulties dealing with situations that are not typical of everyday operations." He said CCA's policy in dealing with riots is to "stand down and wait" for DOC officials to arrive to handle it. "I'm really concerned with what the counties are going to have to do with private prisons, what's expected of them and whether or not they really know what they're getting into when they get into a private prison situation," said Sen. Abel Tapia, D-Pueblo, who sat in on the briefing. "I know that (DOC) has the ability to get a team together to react to a violent situation. Shouldn't private prisons have that same capability to control their own facility?" Renfrow agreed, saying one of the recommendations he expects to make to the governor is to ensure that private prison guards are better trained and equipped to handle riots.

September 21, 2004 Pueblo Chieftain
Colorado Department of Corrections officials don't routinely keep records of staffing levels, turnover rates or salary information for private prisons housing state inmates, says DOC spokeswoman Alison Morgan. The staffing issues were raised following a July 20 inmate riot at Crowley County Correctional Facility in Olney Springs, where 400 to 500 prisoners held control at the prison for five hours, until DOC and law officers from several local and state agencies used tear gas and rubber pellets to regain control of the medium-security prison run by Corrections Corp. of America. Following the riot, The Pueblo Chieftain questioned Morgan about the private prison's staffing ratio, number of uniformed staffers on duty when the riot began and salary ranges for CCA employees. Morgan replied: a.. CCA's uniformed staff-to-inmate ratio was 1 to 7.9, while DOC's average staff-to-inmate ratio is 1 to 4.7.  b.. CCA had 33 uniformed staffers on duty when the riot began and the prison housed 1,125 inmates at the time. c.. A Crowley County correctional officer's pay averages $1,818 per month plus benefits. d.. DOC's monthly beginning correctional salary is $2,774, plus state benefits; (no average was given). Morgan provided the information to The Chieftain on July 23. But when private prison critic Ken Kopczynski of the Private Corrections Institute Inc., asked Morgan in August for the same information, along with some backup information such as shift logs, Morgan told Kopczynski that DOC did not have information on the staffing levels at the time of the riot, annual turnover rates or average salary ranges. Staff longevity was raised, according to Kopczynski, because one female Crowley employee stated on television that she was working in the central control center despite being on the job for only two days. Morgan, asked Monday about the discrepancy in her responses to Kopczynski and The Chieftain on staffing issues, said she obtained responses for The Chieftain in July from CCA, but added that DOC does not routinely keep staffing or other information on the Crowley prison as part of its ongoing monitoring of CCA. The reason, she said, is that DOC's contract with CCA requires the company only to maintain sufficient staffing; no specifics are spelled out.

August 8, 2004
As inmates at Crowley County Correctional Facility grew restless and agitated in the exercise yard on the evening of July 20, officers of the private company charged with managing the prison withdrew to regroup. "They ran," said inmate Robert Horn, serving five years for passing bad checks. "They just abandoned the place."  All but one.  As a peaceful protest devolved into arson and riot over five hours, prison librarian Linda Lyons kept sole watch over 37 male inmates. Although she radioed her location, her supervisors from the private Corrections Corporation of America made no move to retrieve her. They then failed to notify an elite anti-riot team from the Department of Corrections that she had been left behind.  While up to 500 inmates in a prison full of 1,100 killers, rapists, thieves and drug dealers brought their riot within one building of the library, Lyons was never harmed. She said the men with her talked, played chess and stayed clear of the melee while she maintained a calm demeanor.  "Showing fear would have upset the inmates," Lyons said.  A Department of Corrections review of Colorado's most destructive inmate uprising has found that the official response was dogged by slow decision-making and a lack of communication. A senior department official said CCA officials failed to respond promptly and with enough force, ignored an offer to negotiate, then left the librarian behind as they retreated to safe positions.  Beyond the questions about the response, inmates and a corrections officer from CCA say the company's managers had also failed to heed weeks of warnings about growing inmate unrest.  That unrest - over such typical inmate complaints as poor food, inequitable treatment of prisoners and a lack of access to prison officials - blossomed into a riot after corrections officers disciplined one unruly inmate. Officials with CCA, which manages the Crowley County prison through a contract with the department, dispute much of the department's criticisms. They insist they mounted an organized response to the rebellion, deployed chemical agents promptly and never ignored inmate grievances or a request that night to see the warden. On the contrary, said spokesman Steve Owen, company officials tried to negotiate an end to the uprising before the riot but were forced to withdraw as inmates grew increasingly angry.  "If there are things we didn't do right, we're going to own up to it," Owen said. "We're going to fix all that."  The company has already placed one Crowley County captain on administrative leave because his statements about the riot were "very inconsistent," Owen said Saturday.  "There is a concern about the truthfulness of his statement," he said. The department's investigation is not yet complete, but interviews with inmates, department officials and a guard at the prison provide an outline of the events that nearly killed one inmate and left the prison smoldering and partly uninhabitable.  Inmate allegedly beaten In the weeks before the riot, about 200 inmates from Washington state had been moved to Crowley County as CCA sought to maximize profits by filling every bed. At 10 a.m. the day of the riot, one of the Washington inmates refused to go to work, according to the department's director of prisons, Nolin Renfrow.  When the inmate struggled with an officer taking him to a disciplinary unit, several officers jerked the inmate to the ground, said inmate Fredrick Morris, 47, who is serving a life sentence for murder. Horn also witnessed the inmate's treatment.  "These other guards started pummeling him and kicking him," Horn said. "We'd just had enough, you know? To treat someone like an animal is not going to fly anymore."  CCA and the department are both investigating the complaint about the alleged beating of the inmate, whose name was not released. The department's inspector general says a videotape of the incident does not appear to show excessive force. But neither the department nor CCA has reached a conclusion on whether the corrections officer went too far.  Inmates thought he did. The boiling point  CCA is a Tennessee-based for-profit corporation with contracts to manage prisons and jails across the United States, including four here. Colorado pays the company $49 per inmate per day and requires the company to comply with all state and federal rules for inmate care.  The company and its supporters say they can profit from incarceration by employing efficient techniques lost on state bureaucracies.  Inmates at Crowley County said that quest for profit went too far at the prison.  Morris, who had worked as a cook at the prison, said he quit his job of three years because of the facility's poor food preparation practices. Staff were ordered to grind hot dogs for spaghetti sauce, use muffin mix in meatloaf, combine instant potatoes with pinto beans for burritos and put pork in soup intended for Jewish inmates, Morris said.  He said he complained about the practices to a CCA supervisor in March but nothing happened.  "The food has gotten worse," Morris said.  CCA officials said they had received no formal grievances about the food. The most recent inspection by the department, on June 29, found that the food served to inmates at Crowley County was considered "good" by department standards in nearly every category.  In volunteer prison surveys for the department, Crowley County inmates in October rated food they received to be lower in quality across the board than prisoners at department prisons.  But Owen said CCA by contract serves the exact same menus as the department.  Prisoners have not filed any grievances about food quality, he said.  Inmates had a variety of other complaints against Crowley County.  Colorado inmates were upset that they were paid only 60 cents a day for doing the same work as inmates transferred to the prison from Washington a week earlier. Washington pays inmates $3 per day for work, and CCA is bound by contract to follow Washington policies when keeping that state's inmates, Owen said. Colorado lets CCA pay local inmates less.  All of that boiled over July 20. A Crowley County correctional officer said inmates had been talking for weeks about an uprising.  "I was told about it," said the officer, whose name is being withheld. "They said it wasn't going to be more than two months, at the most. It wasn't even that long. I was told this by several different inmates."  "They took off running" On the night of July 20, correctional officers opened a gate connecting the east recreational yard with the west about 7 p.m. so inmates could play softball in the west yard.  Instead of a handful, hundreds streamed into the west yard, said inmate Terry Poole, serving life for kidnapping.  Several Washington inmates asked correctional officers to speak with Warden Brent Crouse about their grievances, Renfrow said.  Crowley County security chief Richard Selman said he never heard about the requests. Owen, the CCA spokesman, said the company's investigation has determined that an inmate asked to speak with a "supervisor" - not the warden.  After the request was relayed to supervisors, a shift captain was unable to locate the inmate who made the request, Owen said. At that point, the captain became concerned for the safety of the prison staff and they withdrew from the yard - effectively relinquishing control to the inmates.  "They took off running, and they left the female employees behind," said William Morris, another Crowley County Correctional Facility inmate.  CCA reported the prisoner rebellion to department officials, and Renfrow said he urged CCA to immediately use chemical agents to push inmates away from the living units and put down the uprising.  But, Renfrow said, CCA officials told department monitors that they needed approval from their Nashville headquarters before deploying tear gas.  CCA spokesman Owen says the company's officers did not need approval from Nashville and did respond promptly. In a written response to questions, he said "chemical agents had already been disbursed by facility staff at approximately 8:20 p.m." That would be before Renfrow said he asked for its use.  Regardless of when the first gas was used, it came much later than inmates expected and gave ringleaders an opportunity to organize real mayhem.  "If they would have just went back, sat on the towers and shot tear gas from up there, there probably would have been less of a riot," William Morris said. "Everybody would have went home. They would have dispersed."  Librarian kept her cool As inmates began setting the prison facilities ablaze, librarian Lyons, 56, ordered the men in the library back to their cells. They implored her not to force them out into the yard, where other inmates were clearly gearing up for a fight.  Before long, fires were burning in front of each living unit and the greenhouse was burning. In the yard, scores of inmates used filing cabinets and doors as shields as they approached officers.  They barricaded doors with soda machines they lit on fire. Unbreakable windows were blown out, and inmates were using shards of glass as shanks. The amount of damage still has not been calculated, but it may approach $1 million.  Renfrow said he asked CCA if all employees had made it safely out of the prisoner-controlled grounds. He said he was mistakenly told they had.  If he had known Lyons was still in harm's way, he said, he would have immediately ordered officers to get her. Inmates broke into the shop next to the library, said Nathan Walter, commander of the department's Special Operations Response Team, or SORT.  Still, Lyons, a second-year CCA employee, didn't fret, and she said she is not upset with CCA for failing to dispatch a team to rescue her. In her mind, she didn't need rescuing.  "I felt safe where I was," she said.  It was 10 p.m. before the SORT team had moved in to retake the first of the dorms. Outnumbered by dozens of prisoners to each one, SORT members used rubber pellets and "triple chaser" tear gas bundles that separated and exploded to push back inmates who were hurling rocks, sticks, furniture and flaming Molotov cocktails.  In the aftermath, they learned that while Lyons was unharmed, a group of as many as 15 inmates had gone on the prowl in the prison to attack sex offenders and men suspected of being snitches. The man hurt worst during the riot, burglar Rudy Lujan, was attacked by a mob of maybe 15 inmates who believed he had snitched on inmates to the guards, Horn said. They beat him, stabbed him, threw him over the railing of the second-floor tier of cells and tossed a microwave oven onto his limp frame.  He was hospitalized in critical condition, and officials have not offered an update since.  The prison can be repaired, but if CCA's policies don't change, it will happen again, Horn predicted.  "Those people (in Olney Springs) need to understand that this is going to occur over and over again," he said. "The population in that area is seriously lucky. At any point, (the inmates) could have just turned to that fence and mowed that fence down. Imagine five or six hundred crazed individuals running into Olney Springs."  (Denver Post)

August 4, 2004
Family members of inmate Rudy Lujan sat around his mother's dinning room table recently, looking at pictures from his childhood and worrying about his well-being now.  Oh, the stories Juliana Lujan has about her 32-year-old son who was beaten nearly to death after a riot broke out two weeks ago at the Crowley County Correctional Facility east of Pueblo. Rudy Lujan of Greeley is still hospitalized from the injuries. His parole hearing is today.  Lujan was stabbed, beaten with a cinder block and forced to jump from the second floor by a gang of men on July 20 when inmates rioted, torched and broke pipelines that flooded the prison.  Juliana said in the past year her son has repeatedly asked for protection, but no one took the convicted felon seriously. He told his family that he had been jumped, "cheap-shotted" from behind and threatened several times.  He was at an undisclosed hospital in Pueblo where guards watched over him as he recovered from a coma, a bruised body, blackened eyes, stiff neck, several stab wounds and carnage torn from his arm by the cinder block beating. It took him nearly dying to be taken seriously, Juliana said. Lujan was recently moved to an infirmary, she said.  (Greeley Tribune)

July 30, 2004
More than two dozen Airway Heights inmates currently housed at a Colorado corrections facility will remain there until the Washington State Department of Corrections completes its investigation into last week's riot. Criteria for selecting inmates to send out of state include time left to serve, health issues, behavior and how often they are visited by relatives. Ultimately though, the private out-of-state prisons get to choose which inmates it wants to bring in.  (KXLY News 4)

July 29, 2004
For more than two hours, Tammera Bravo's son, an inmate at Crowley Correctional Facility, delivered "minute-by-minute terror" over the phone as prisoners smashed their surroundings.  "He said, 'It's on Mom. Those prisoners from Washington are refusing to come out of the yard.' " Washington inmates at the private prison in Olney Springs, about 80 miles southeast of Colorado Springs, had reached a boiling point because of their recent transfer and because they didn't like their new cells, Bravo said.  Five and a half hours later, it was over. All in all, as many as 400 of the prison's more than 1,100 inmates had been involved. Two of five cellblocks were trashed, at least one control room had been breached, fires had burned, and 13 inmates were injured.  Ken Kopczynski, executive director of the Tallahassee, Fla.-based Private Corrections Institute -- which has been extremely critical of privatized prisons -- said the transfers hurt inmates' ties to family and friends. Many families, he said, are too poor to afford regular visits and inmates are left with little to look forward to and no life outside prison walls.  Kopczynski says it was no coincidence that, a day after the Crowley County prison incident, 28 Colorado inmates rebelled at a CCA private prison in Tutwiler, Miss., setting fire to mattresses and clothing.  "You're importing inmates from Washington and Wyoming to Colorado, and then you're shipping Colorado inmates off to Mississippi," Kopczynski said. "Does anyone see the irony here?"  In 2002, former state Sen. Penfield Tate, as he had in years prior, introduced unsuccessful legislation that would have prevented Colorado inmates from being transferred out of state. Tate became worried after incidents occurred in the 1990s similar to the one in Crowley County.  "We've seen a history of it," Tate said.  At CCA-owned private prisons, the guard-to-inmate ratios are far lower than at state-operated Department of Corrections facilities. The state's average ratio is one guard for less than five inmates, while the for-profit CCA averages one guard for nearly eight inmates. Morgan said the vast difference in ratios is justified because the state tends to deal with more difficult inmates.  However, critics like Kopczynski note that salaries for private prison guards tend to be much lower. At the Crowley County prison, guards make an average of $1,818 a month, compared to state guard salaries that start at $2,774 a month.  Because private prisons tend to pay guards less, companies grapple with higher turnover, meaning fewer experienced guards are available to handle complex inmate issues, Kopczynski said. Some guards, he said, don't last long enough to complete their training, which can take months. Others stay just a few years, he added.  (Colorado Springs Independent)

July 29, 2004
The state Department of Corrections will accept no more out-of-state prisoners at Colorado's four private prisons while an investigation unravels the cause of a riot at one of them, an agency spokeswoman said Tuesday.  (Rocky Mountain News)

July 28, 2004
State Sen. Ken Kester on Tuesday defended the private operators of Crowley County Correctional Facility, rocked by a riot last week.  Kester, R-Las Animas, questioned statements made by Rep. Buffie McFadyen, D-Pueblo West, in the wake of a riot that caused major damage to the prison, and praised Corrections Corp. of America, which operates Crowley and three other private prisons in the state.  The day following the riot, McFadyen told The Pueblo Chieftain her attempts to require the state to reveal the actual state cost of housing prisoners at private prisons was rejected during the latest term of the Legislature.  She said that on three different occasions, she asked for a breakdown of the cost - not just the per diem rate paid to private prisons, but also cost for medical care for inmates, transportation, escapes, riot control, case management and some training of private prison staff, which the state pays.  "I am not trying to be belligerent. I am just trying to assess the information in a format that can be compared side-by-side with the state numbers. If that information is available it has not been made available to me," McFadyen said.  Kester defended private prisons, saying that they save the state an estimated $50 million in construction costs per private prison, and it also costs taxpayers less to maintain inmates in private prisons.  Kester, who was a Bent County commissioner when the county negotiated a deal with CCA for the Bent County Correctional Facility, said that the Bent County prison has been helpful to the community.  (Pueblo Chieftain)

July 27, 2004
A riot that injured more than a dozen inmates and caused millions of dollars in damage to a prison run by a Tennessee company last week prompted the state to temporarily stop accepting out-of-state inmates, an official says.  (AP)

July 25, 2004
Staffing and pay at the Crowley County private prison, where inmates rioted Tuesday night, is roughly half of that at state prisons, a Department of Corrections spokeswoman said Friday.  The DOC's Alison Morgan worked with the Crowley prison owner, Corrections Corp. of America, to produce the statement in response to questions submitted by The Pueblo Chieftain.  CCA's uniformed staff-to-inmate ratio is 1-7.9. DOC's average staff-to-inmate ratio is 4.7-1. She noted that DOC's ratio is affected by the needs in DOC's high-custody facilities and special-needs inmates.  CCA has based its salaries on the Crowley County area's prevailing wages. The range for a correctional officer at Crowley County is $1,557 to $2,335 a year, with an average of $1,818 per month plus benefits. DOC's beginning salary for a correctional officer is $2,774 per month, plus state benefits. No average figure was stated.  Colorado, like most states, participates in the Federal Interstate Compact Agreement that provides for the exchange of inmates between states. "For example, if DOC has an inmate that cannot be incarcerated in a Colorado facility, we can transfer that inmate to an accepting state. We then must accept an inmate from that state in exchange." It was not clear whether DOC reviews the backgrounds of prisoners before they're accepted into the state's private prisons.  Crowley County had 33 uniformed staffers on duty when the riot began Tuesday night. The prison housed 1,125 inmates, according to DOC officials.  There have been reports that Crowley staffers feared there would be strife with the arrival of Washington state inmates. Ninety-nine Washington inmates arrived on July 2; another 99 on July 9.  (Pueblo Chieftain)

July 25, 2004
Details of a sexual harassment lawsuit settlement between an Edmond company that once operated a Colorado private prison and three women who used to work there aren't being released.  The women, former guards, filed the federal lawsuit seeking more than $10 million from Dominion Correctional Services and three managers.  The former guards alleged that female employees were coerced numerous times in 2001 and 2002 into sexual activity by male managers who condoned sexual misconduct among workers.  Former guard Lucilla Gigliotti alleged that she became pregnant after the prison's former chief of security, Ronald McCall, went to her home and raped her.  McCall, in court filings, denied he sexually assaulted her and denied he "engaged in any conduct which violated the constitutional rights" of Gigliotti and the other two women, Pamela Johnson and Lt. Jennifer Stalder.  McCall had been forced from a previous job at the Colorado Department of Corrections because "he had an extensive history of engaging in sexual discrimination and harassment," the three women alleged.  Johnson alleged a guard raped her at the prison despite her having previously pleaded with Vigil not to assign the guard and her to the same work area.  (AP)

July 23, 2004
A man who suffered the worst injuries during Tuesday's riot at the Crowley County Correctional Facility called his sister after fires broke out, saying he feared for his life and that she should call police.   Rudy Lujan, 32, who is serving time for burglary and drug charges, had to shout because the commotion in the private prison was so loud, said his sister, who would give only her first name, Bonnie, citing fear of retaliation.  "He said a riot was going on, and all the guards were so scared they went on the roof," she said. "The prisoners had already taken control. He was scared. He told me, 'If anything happens to me, tell everybody I love them."'  A prison official called Lujan's family in Greeley on Wednesday to tell them that he had been hospitalized with multiple stab wounds, said his other sister, Debbie Segura. On Thursday, prison officials reported that Lujan was breathing on his own and was in serious but stable condition, according to the family.  Lujan had been having problems with gang members in the private prison in Olney Springs, his family said. He had told them stories of being jumped from behind and "cheap-shotted" more than once.  His family believes Lujan had been refusing gang members' attempts to recruit him.  (Denver Post)

July 23, 2004
Prison officials at the Crowley County Correctional Facility foresee a complex repair project after the prison was rocked by a riot Tuesday night.  The prison is one of four in the state owned and operated by Corrections Corp. of America. At least one-third of its 1,147 inmates rioted Tuesday and two of the five housing units were rendered uninhabitable.  Inmates set three fires, damaged three other living units and destroyed the vocational greenhouse.  They also smashed furniture and televisions, destroyed desks and bunks, ripped sinks and toilets from the walls and intentionally triggered fire alarms to drench everything in the buildings.  (Pueblo Chieftain)

July 23, 2004
Inmates at the Crowley County prison began telling their families as long as a month ago that tensions at the facility were high and that an uprising was imminent, two parents said Thursday.  One Denver mother said her son told her that in early June word began to spread that the Crowley County Correctional Facility was going to accept prisoners from Washington state. When the imported inmates began arriving about three weeks ago, several inmates began complaining to the guards, she said.  Colorado inmates complained that some of the out-of-state prisoners were being mixed in with them, which was creating a lot of tension, she said. Residents and officials from nearby Olney Springs said guards who visit the town's businesses or live in the community had told them in recent weeks that they expected violence at the prison.  (Rocky Mountain News)

July 23, 2004
Although state lawmakers have carried out four audits of state prison programs since 1999, they have never audited the private company in charge of the southern Colorado prison engulfed by a riot Tuesday.  The Crowley County prison that erupted in flames is run by Corrections Corporation of America. A state senator said Thursday the state might want to take a closer look at its finances.  "We can follow the state's money and audit that," said Sen. Norma Anderson, R-Lakewood, a longtime audit committee member. "Perhaps we should do more along that line. We have looked at the bank accounts for the prisoners that are held in the private prisons, but we have never audited security there."  No one could estimate the damage from Tuesday's melee, but state officials insisted those costs would be borne by CCA.  The state also intends to bill the company for its costs in rushing more than 100 correctional officers and other help to the scene to help quell the uprising, as well as the expense of the investigation - a cost that could run as high as $150,000.  And at a news conference in Pueblo, Frank Smith of the anti- private prison group Private Corrections Institute said that "Olney Springs came apart at the seams, and it was no big surprise."  Smith, along with Brian Dawe, executive director of Corrections U.S.A., a nonprofit group that represents the nation's public corrections officers, said private prisons do not protect the public.  "This isn't about public safety for the private prisons, it's about the money," Dawe said.  Smith said he talked to some of the corrections officers at Crowley and they expressed concerns about understaffing, low pay and inadequate training. Dawe said private prison guards receive 30 percent less training than those at federal facilities.  Smith said he was also told that Colorado prisoners might have started the riot because they were not happy about what they considered special treatment that prisoners from Washington state were receiving.  Dawe, a former prison guard, said moving inmates out of state and away from their families is bad for the prison and the public. "I guess Colorado doesn't have enough problems, so they need to import some more," he said.  (Rocky Mountain News)

July 22, 2004
After an inmate's being denied a peanut-butter-and-jelly sandwich helped sparked a riot at the medium-security Crowley County Correctional Facility in 1999, state prison officials concluded that guards at the private prison had not been properly trained.  John Suthers, head of the Colorado Department of Corrections at the time, later vowed that the state's future contracts with private prisons would emphasize "proper training." Five years later, after another riot at the prison - now run by a different company, Corrections Corp. of America - some critics are raising the training issue again, though DOC officials say they don't believe it's a problem. "The people that they're getting employed there - people who have never been in law enforcement, people who have never been in corrections - they put them through a training period that they say is effective, but it's not," former Crowley County correctional officer Jennifer Stalder said Wednesday. "You're dealing with felons, and they don't play."  Stalder recently settled a wrongful-termination suit against Dominion Correctional Services, which ran the prison before CCA. Stalder never worked for CCA, but she has friends and relatives who work there who have told her the training programs have not changed, she said.  And though some wondered Wednesday if state budget cuts could have led to Tuesday's riot, that is unlikely, said Republican Rep. Brad Young of Lamar, chairman of the legislature's Joint Budget Committee.  But Rep. Buffie McFadyen, D-Pueblo, said she's concerned that privately run prisons aren't cheaper than state-run prisons. She points out that the costs for medical care, transportation, clothing, case management, escapes and riot control all fall back on state and local government.  (Denver Post)

July 22, 2004
State Department of Corrections officials said Wednesday that Tuesday's Crowley County prison riot began with 100 to 150 inmates refusing to return from a recreational yard to their housing unit.  As a result of damage from the uprising, more than half the inmates have been moved elsewhere.  The Olney Springs prison is privately operated by Corrections Corp. of America, but state employees of the DOC and officers from several area sheriffs' departments helped bring the riot under control about five hours after it began.  DOC officials said the investigation of the cause of the riot is ongoing. Department spokeswoman Allison Morgan said, "one factor may be gang-related," but Executive Director Joe Ortiz said later, "We have no special information that this is gang-related."  Morgan said the riot began at 7:30 p.m., turning into a scene of mayhem as inmates used weight-lifting equipment to tear up housing units. They started three fires, leaving two of the prison's five housing units uninhabitable from fire and water damage and another unit damaged. Other property was damaged or destroyed, and there were a few instances of inmates attacking one another.  CCA staffers retreated until the DOC special operations team and emergency response teams from five state prisons arrived. Backup officers from Pueblo, Fowler, Rocky Ford and the Colorado State Patrol also were sent to assist with the crisis. DOC will put a moratorium on transferring out-of-state inmates into Crowley County for now.  (The Pueblo Chieftain)

July 22, 2004
A Colorado lawmaker whose district includes eight state-run prisons said Wednesday the riot at the private Crowley County facility raises critical questions about the safety and cost-effectiveness of private prisons. Rep. Buffie McFadyen, D-Pueblo West, said she was alarmed when she first got word of the rioting and the possibility that inmates and guards might have been seriously hurt or killed.  She intends to press her colleagues during the 2005 session to take a much closer look at the state's contracts with private prisons.  She had raised the alarm on the House floor this year during a debate over a bill pushed by legislative budget writers that would make it easier to seek competitive proposals from private prison providers.  "It's not just the cost," she said. "My concern also is for the safety of the general public, as well as the people working in, and even those confined in, these facilities.  "This is the second riot at the same facility since 1999. These prisons are built in rural areas, where there is little law enforcement to help out. They may not have sufficient manpower themselves, and they may be poorly trained and equipped."  But Rep. Brad Young, R-Lamar, chairman of the legislature's budget-writing committee, noted that prisons - both state and private - are dangerous places. He said he wants to see a full report on what happened.  "It sounds like a full-scale riot broke out really fast," Young said. "You do everything you can to prevent that kind of thing. It doesn't mean they weren't doing a good job."  Young said constructing prisons is "a huge cost" and added that with the economic downturn that occurred a little more than two years ago, "the state couldn't afford to keep up with the inmate population increases we've seen."  "There definitely is some economy for doing it through the private sector," he said. But McFadyen said she hoped what occurred would help bring a better awareness of the true cost to the state and local governments where private prisons are located.  "As a state legislator, I have frequently questioned the hard cost of contracting with private prisons," she said. "No one can give me an exact amount. The question is, are we risking the safety of the public and is it really cheaper? We must have answers to those questions."  (Rocky Mountain News)

July 22, 2004
State prison officials sifted through a stunning swath of destruction at the Crowley County Correctional Facility on Wednesday, still uncertain what caused an overnight riot by more than 400 inmates.  Officials on Wednesday discounted reports that the riot was a "turf war" between Colorado inmates and 190 prisoners who arrived from Washington state about three weeks ago.  But guards had privately confided to townspeople since the Washington transfer that they feared something was brewing.  The Washington inmates were angry over their transfer more than 1,000 miles away from their families.  Whatever problem had been smoldering inside the privately operated prison 40 miles east of Pueblo erupted violently about 7:30 p.m. Tuesday.  More than one-third of the prison's 1,147 inmates joined in the 51/2-hour riot.  They set at least three fires, smashed everything in two of the prison's five living units, damaged its three other living units, and resisted more than 150 guards using tear gas and rubber bullets to quell the outbreak.  Thirteen inmates were injured. One suffered multiple stab wounds in one of two inmate-on-inmate assaults. Four inmates remained hospitalized Tuesday, none with life-threatening injuries, said Department of Corrections Director Joe Ortiz.  None of the prison staff was injured.  On Wednesday, the inmates were being held under 24-hour lockdown in cells and improvised holding areas throughout the prison.  At the height of the riot, inmates set fires in two cell houses and the vocational greenhouse, and proceeded to tear them apart, throwing and smashing furniture, destroying desks and bunks, ripping sinks and toilets from the walls, splintering television sets and setting off fire alarms to drench everything in the buildings.  Some inmates used steel weights and dumbbells from the exercise yard to smash doors and windows, said Department of Corrections spokeswoman Alison Morgan.  "Living Unit 2 is not habitable. Living Unit 1 is not as severe, but it is destroyed," Morgan said.  The destruction ruined 600 inmate cells, leaving prison officials to find other places to house them. About 300 were being moved to a newly completed housing unit at the prison, but 300 were being transferred Wednesday to other state prisons.  (Rocky Mountain News)

July 21, 2004
Inmates at a nearby private prison rioted Tuesday, prompting law enforcement agencies from around Southern Colorado to mobilize in an effort to quell the uprising.  Crowley County Commissioner Matt Heimerich told The Pueblo Chieftain that local sheriff's department responded to the medium security Crowley County Correctional Facility at about 8 p.m. with every available officer from its force of nine people, along with all three ambulances in Crowley County.  By 10 p.m. the rioting apparently had escalated and reached a threshold of serious concern, as the Pueblo County Sheriff's Department's SORT team and up to 20 members of the SWAT team from the Pueblo Police Department were deployed to join in suppressing the situation. The Fowler Police Department, Otero County Sheriff's Department, Rocky Ford Police Department and the Colorado State Patrol also joined the effort.  Witnesses said smoke billowed from three separate locations in the prison - one in the yard and two inside structures - and the smell of tear gas was thick. Multiple witnesses also reported hearing gunshots from inside the prison walls.  A female guard toting a rifle was stationed at the main entrance to the prison and turned away several curious onlookers from the surrounding rural area. Heimerich said he had been told the riot was being driven by inmates from the state of Washington, who were recently transferred to the prison in Olney Springs. The prison recently contracted to retain between 150 and 200 inmates from Washington.  (Pueblo Chieftain)

July 21, 2004
At least 100 inmates rioted Tuesday evening and set small fires inside the walls of a privately run prison in Crowley County. Scores of law-enforcement officials from all over the state raced to Olney Springs to help quell the disturbance.  The inmates rioted in the yard and in some portions of the interior of the Crowley County Correctional Facility in Olney Springs, Allison Morgan, Colorado Department of Corrections spokeswoman, said early this morning. Morgan said she did not know where in the prison the fires were set.  (Rocky Mountain news)

Florence Correctional Center
Florence, Arizona
CCA

October 24, 2009 Casa Grande Dispatch
An inmate at a Corrections Corporation of America prison has been sentenced to a long prison term for aggravated assault on a corrections officer with two prior felony convictions. Elijah Stroman, 26, was sentenced Oct. 6 by Pinal County Superior Court Commissioner Craig Raymond to the presumptive term of five years in prison, with credit for 87 days served, after pleading guilty. The term is to be served concurrently with a sentence from Washington state. The offense occurred May 19, 2008. Restitution is to be determined.

September 30, 2008 AP
More than 100 inmates are being transferred back to Washington, after serving time at private prisons in Arizona. The Corrections Department says the return of 110 inmates from Arizona is the largest single-day transfer of out-of-state inmates this year. They were sent to Arizona because of crowding in Washington prisons. But an expansion in the state prison system has freed up some space. Seventy-six of the inmates will be sent to the Washington Corrections Center in Mason County, and 34 will be sent to the Monroe Correctional Complex in Snohomish County. The number of inmates housed outside the state is now 978. Earlier this year, nearly 1,200 Washington inmates were in other states.

December 22, 2007 East Valley Tribune
Arizona for the first time is using a state law that allows police agencies to recover costs in capturing people who escape from private prisons. The tab is $25,000 for the Arizona Department of Public Safety’s part in the capture of two murderers who escaped from the Florence Correctional Center in September, according to Phil Case, DPS budget officer. Case said he has asked other agencies, including the Florence and Casa Grande police departments, Pinal County Sheriff’s Office and the Arizona Department of Corrections, to figure out what their costs were. “We’re fully aware of the statutory requirements,” said Steve Owen, spokesman for Correctional Corporation of America, a company based in Nashville, Tenn., that runs the Florence prison. “We certainly very much appreciated the assistance.” The company has five prisons in Pinal County housing about 9,200 men, and another is planned. Owen said there have only been two other escapes from Correctional Corporation of America prisons in Pinal County since 1997, and each was captured within minutes. A Pinal County Sheriff’s Office deputy caught Kollin Folsom, 24, within hours after he and Roy Townsend, 37, overpowered a correctional officer as they worked on a cleaning crew at the prison. They then used a ladder to get over the razor wire fence. Deputy U.S. Marshals found Townsend near Spokane, Wash., about a month later. Both men were from Washington, where state prisons are overcrowded. States often send inmates to private prisons in other states when their prisons are over capacity. There are more than 1,700 prisoners from California, Washington, the U.S. Marshal’s Service and Immigration and Customs Enforcement housed at the Florence Center. When Folsom and Townsend got out, dozens of officers set up roadblocks and went door-to-door. Dogs tried to sniff out the escapees, and helicopters searched from the air. When the initial manhunt ended, detectives continued to search for Townsend. State law requires private prisons to pay either $10,000 per escaped prisoner or the “actual capture costs per escapee, whichever is more.”

October 17, 2007 Arizona Republic
A convicted murderer who escaped a Florence prison last month has been reportedly caught in his home state of Washington. Detective Walt Hunter of the Florence Police Department said in an e-mail Wednesday morning that Roy Townsend, 37, who escaped with Kollin Folsom, 24, from Florence Correctional Center on Sept. 17, had been apprehended in Spokane. In the e-mail, Hunter said he has few details other than Townsend was captured. Townsend and Folsom escaped Sept. 17 after overpowering a correctional officer as they worked on an evening cleaning crew at the Florence Correctional Center, then used ladders to scale razor wire-topped fencing. Folsom, also a convicted murderer, was apprehended several hours after the two men escaped. Townsend was convicted of arson, theft and murder in Mason County, Washington, and had nearly 50 years still to serve. He was among 506 Washington inmates at Florence.

October 10, 2007 KOMO TV
A family here wants an explanation from the state as to why their son's killer sent to a private, out of state prison in Arizona? Eleven years ago, Gerald Harkins was shot twice, killed and left in the woods. He was just 18. A few miles from Shelton in the family's living room, there are old newspaper clippings, including one that says: "Killer Gets 66 Years in Prison." But three weeks ago, Roy Townsend and another killer puts ladders against a prison fence in Arizona. One was recaptured, but Townsend, convicted of killing Gerald Harkins is still at large. "To me, it's like being right back where we were 10 years ago," said Gerald's father, Larry. "Waiting and hunting." Audrey and Larry Harkins had just begun to heal. Some of the pictures and poems still bring tears. Two years ago, Audrey started putting together a photo album as a memory book. She never expected a prison break and fear. "He needs to be behind bars to protect every young adult," she said. "You don't know what would make him turn." To them, their son's killer is more than a wanted poster. He's a nightmare returned. And they can't understand why the State of Washington moved a murderer into a medium security private prison. "I don't understand it," Larry Harkins said. "To me, when he was convicted in the state, a judge gave him a penalty and the state of Washington was supposed to carry that penalty out. He was put in their care, and, you know what, they blew it." The Harkins say they have a meeting Lieutenant Governor Brad Owen to talk about their son and a prison break. The Harkins may worry, but police in Shelton and Mason County say a fugitive would have to be crazy to come back. After all, they say everybody knows everybody and everything that's going on. In the meantime, Larry and Audrey say they want two things: Townsend's arrest and changes in the state's prison practices.

September 21, 2007 AP
A convicted murderer who escaped from a private prison in Florence earlier this week is still on the loose. Pinal County sheriff's spokesman Mike Minter says a nationwide law enforcement alert is out for 37-year-old Roy Townsend, but so far he's eluded capture. Townsend escaped Monday from the Florence Correctional Center with another inmate, who was captured hours later. Townsend was convicted of arson, theft and murder in Mason County, Washington and had nearly 50 years still to serve. He was among 506 Washington inmates at Florence. Minter says sheriff's investigators plan to meet with U.S. Marshals officials to try to come up with ideas on how to track down Townsend.

September 18, 2007 Arizona Republic
Authorities issued a statewide alert but scaled back their search Tuesday for a convicted murderer who escaped from a privately run prison in Florence. Florence Police Detective Walt Hunter said there have been reported sightings of 37-year-old Roy Townsend. Townsend and 24-year-old Kollin Folsom escaped from the Florence Correctional Center by overpowering a correctional officer as they worked on an evening cleaning crew. They escaped about early Monday by climbing ladders over razor wire-topped fencing about 14 feet high. Folsom was caught several hours later. Hunter said the search for Townsend has been cut back to agencies in the immediate area but a statewide "attempt to locate" alert has gone to law enforcement agencies. "We're working with several other agencies, even out of state agencies," Hunter said Tuesday, "and we're following up on a bunch of leads and tips today." Authorities searched across the town and nearby desert areas Monday. "Police officers are going door to door. We have roving patrols. We have air surveillance. We have dog units," Hunter said Monday. "There's just so many locations he could have gone, you can't really pinpoint one direction. We're just doing an exhaustive search of the whole area," Hunter said. "Wherever (Townsend) is at, hopefully we're going to catch him." Townsend and Folsom were working as part of an evening cleaning crew when they attacked a guard and tied him down, according to a release from the Corrections Corporation of America, which operates the prison.

18, 2007 Arizona Republic
Two convicted murderers serving time at a private prison in Florence overcame a guard and then used ladders to slip over prison fences early Monday, authorities said. One of them, Kollin Folsom, 24, was caught by Pinal County authorities at 7:23 a.m. Monday morning. The other, Roy Townsend, 37, is still on the loose. About 1 a.m., Folsom and Townsend escaped from the Florence Correctional Center. Detective Walt Hunter of the Florence Police Department said the inmates took ladders, climbed on the prison roof and scaled two fences. Television footage of the prison showed at least one of the ladders leaning against a fence. Folsom was captured in a two-story building about three miles south of the prison, Hunter said. Hunter said both inmates were serving homicide sentences and were from Washington state. Both inmates were on night cleaning duty when they escaped. They overtook and tied down a male correctional officer before they gained access to the ladders from the maintenance room, officials said. The prison is on lock down, officials said. A “full-scale” search by the Pinal County Sheriff's Department and Florence Police Department, including K-9 tracking dogs, is still underway. The U.S. Marshals Service and other law enforcement agencies are also assisting in the search, Hunter said. “We're just doing an exhaustive search of the whole area,” he said. “Wherever (Townsend) is at, hopefully we're going to catch him.” Towsend is described as a White male, with black hair and brown eyes, 5 feet 11 inches, and weighing about 160 pounds. He is said to be wearing dark blue pants and a white t-shirt or dark blue top, officials said. Authorities warn anyone who might see Towsend not to approach him, but to call 911. Folsom was convicted of first-degree murder for the stabbing of Clinton Williams, his girlfriend's father, in November 1999 in Washougal, Wash. Townsend, 37, was convicted of arson, theft and murder in the shooting of Gerald Harkins in Mason County, Wash. Townsend's release date is Sept. 5, 2054.

September 17, 2007 East Valley Tribune
Two convicted murderers working on the night cleaning crew overtook and tied up a correctional officer, and escaped from Florence Correctional Center early Monday. Kollin Folsom, 24, and Roy Townsend, 37, are prisoners from Washington who have been serving time in the private prison for two and three years, respectively. The Pinal County Sheriff’s Office and Florence Police Department are looking for the men, who escaped about 1 a.m. Folsom is white, 5 feet, 9 inches, 160 pounds, brown hair and brown eyes with no identifiable physical marks. Townsend is white, 5 feet, 11 inches, 160 pounds, black hair, brown eyes, with no identifiable physical marks, according to a press release.

North Fork Correctional Facility, Sayre, Oklahoma
May 24, 2008 The News Tribune
Four Washington prison inmates who were shipped out of state because of overcrowding are under investigation for allegedly assaulting prison workers in Oklahoma on Thursday. The attacks took place at the North Fork Correctional Facility in Oklahoma, a private prison run by the Corrections Corporation of America. Washington has 304 of its inmates serving time in that prison, part of the 1,160 total number of inmates who are now out of state, said Washington prison official Gary Bohon. A prison officer and sergeant were injured, treated at a hospital and released, said a CCA spokeswoman. The four offenders were placed in segregation. Washington also has offenders housed in Arizona and Minnesota to prevent overcrowding in Washington’s 15 prisons, where the population is more than 17,000, including work-release centers. Washington’s Department of Corrections plans to bring back a small number of offenders in the next six to eight weeks, Bohon said. And the state remains on track to bring back all of the out-of-state inmates by the end of 2009. That’s when a bigger prison at Coyote Ridge in Eastern Washington is expected to be fully operational. Bohon said the four inmates could be sent back to Washington or could face local charges as a result of the attacks.

Northwest Detention Center
Tacoma, Washington
GEO Group (formerly Correctional Services Corporation)
Oct 14, 2016 seattleglobalist.com
Labor unrest at GEO Group’s immigrant detention center in Tacoma
On Tuesday a group of sign-wielding protesters marched along the sidewalk outside the Northwest Detention Center in Tacoma, a privately-run Immigrations and Customs Enforcement lockup facility.
The dead end street adjacent to the GEO Group-owned and operated detention facility attracts a lot of protesters, and signs like “GEO unfair treatment” are pretty standard. What was unusual about Tuesday’s protest was the people holding the signs: GEO Group employees who work at the facility. Victoria Mena, Policy Director and Development Strategist at Colectiva Legal del Pueblo — a group that provides legal services and advocates on behalf of migrants — stopped by NWDC Tuesday afternoon after hearing from an attorney colleague that GEO Group employees were picketing. Mena says she arrived to find between 25 and 30 guards on the street outside the detention center. She approached two of the off-duty GEO Group employees who were handing out coffee and donuts and asked them if there was a labor strike. Mena said the corrections workers described the action as an “informational strike” and said that they were frustrated by low wages, inadequate training, mandatory overtime and a lack of sick days. The NWDC guards unionized in January, five years into a pay-freeze, and have received push-back from the company in recent months, Mena said. The ICE spokeswoman, Rose M. Richeson, confirmed that ICE staff at the Northwest Detention Center, “noticed a gathering of what appeared to be GEO employees Tuesday.” Richeson referred me to GEO Group for comment on the details of the event; in typical fashion, GEO Group did not respond to a request for comment. “Here is this huge, greedy corporation that is exploiting its workers as well as the people in detention.” I visited the strike Wednesday but didn’t find any disgruntled workers, just six vehicles with signs condemning the GEO Group displayed on their windshields. The aggrieved workers at NWDC aren’t alone; numbers compiled by the research and policy group In the Public Interest (ITPI) in 2014 demonstrated that the 800,000 people employed in U.S. lockup facilities are at heightened risk for mental illness, substance abuse and suicide. Corrections officers at private prisons typically work under worse conditions than their peers at government-run facilities because the for-profit prisons are short staffed. Data released by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics earlier this year put the median 2015 salary for private-prison correctional officers at $32,290, with a quarter of correctional officers making less than $26,091. The guards aren’t the first to advocate for better working conditions at NWDC. In March 2014 detainees at the facility initiated a work stoppage and hunger strike in response to inadequate compensation and food. “Here is this huge, greedy corporation that is exploiting its workers as well as the people in detention,” said Mena.

Aug 8, 2014 seattleglobalist.com

The latest hunger strike at the Northwest Detention Center was called to a halt last Saturday after two mysterious officials from Immigrations and Customs Enforcement (ICE) approached detainees and told them their “voices had been heard.” The hunger strikers chief complaints were about bad food, substandard medical care, high commissary prices and lack of access to fair and timely court hearings. According to Maru Mora-Villalpando, the CEO of Latino Advocacy and a lifeline for many NWDC detainees, at least 150 prisoners at the facility began to refuse food last Wednesday, continuing until Saturday morning. ICE Public Affairs Officer Andrew Munoz acknowledged that some detainees refused their food but put the number of returned trays at no more than 90. The recent strike is just the latest installment in a series of hunger strikes at the facility. A strike that began March 7and at one point boasted over 1,000 participants was called to an official end May 1 after garnering global media attention. Conditions apparently haven’t changed much at the facility since then. However Munoz explained in an email that commissary prices have been lowered, items have been added and changes have been made to the menu since the spring strike. Detainee Cipriano Rios-Alegria, one of the spring hunger strike participants, was placed in isolation July 31 “pending investigation for trying to recruit other detainees for hunger strike,” according to an internal Administrative Detention Order form furnished to the Seattle Globalist by Alex West, a legal advocate for Colectiva. detainee in isolation for participating in a hunger strike, a constitutionally protected right, is in direct violation of the agreement reached between the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) and Columbia Legal Services and the NWDC earlier this year, during the previous hunger strike. “ICE received numerous complaints from detainees who had no interest in participating, but were being pressured to do so,” explained Munoz, noting that some diabetic detainees had to be transferred for their own dietary protection. “Under ICE’s detention standards, engaging in or inciting a group demonstration is a prohibited act.” After media reports  pointed out this abuse of civil liberties, Rios-Alegria was released from isolation. “The ACLU is standing by in case there is any further retaliation in violation of the previous agreement,” wrote West in an email. Right now it isn’t entirely clear who exactly is negotiating and what is on the table. “NWDC G5 Pod called Saturday morning,” said Mora-Villalpando. “They said a ‘Director Wilson’ met with two of them and told them that their voice was heard, that they should stop and they would work on improving conditions. Both of them were given the same agreement as to what conditions they will improve.” The details get a bit fuzzy beyond that. It isn’t entirely clear who the “Director Wilson” who made the promise is, and no specific date has been set for the rollout of any changes. “We haven’t seen any paperwork yet, just a promise, so we’re looking for something to solidify that,” said West. While Munoz would not explicitly state who met with detainees and convinced them to end their hunger strike Saturday, he did imply that at least one of the officials was affiliated with ICE. “ICE  is committed to ensuring the welfare of those in our custody. ICE managers and detention center staff communicate with detainees regularly during visits to the facility’s pods,” wrote Munoz. “These visits afford the facility staff an opportunity to get direct feedback from detainees regarding any issues or concerns.” A group of 44 detainees also penned a letter to the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) outlining their overarching demands including the following: “NO MORE FAMILY SEPARATIONS. WE WANT FAIR COURT HEARINGS AND THE PRESIDENT TO LISTEN TO OUR COMMUNITY” (You can watch a video of the full letter being read at an August 2nd demonstration here ). As you might imagine, most of those issues are beyond the scope of problems GEO Group and ICE actually have the authority to negotiate on. “Many of the matters raised by detainees, such asimmigration law reform or immigration court case issues, are outside the scope of the detention center staff’s control,” explained Munoz. They’d have to come at the hands of Congress or the President. Indeed it seems likely that the latest hunger strike was timed to coincide with the last few days of the congressional session before their summer recess — when there was a slim chance they might actually take action on an immigration reform bill. That of course didn’t happen. But the spring hunger strike did catch the attention of local Congressman Adam Smith, who introduced a bill  mandating improved conditions in detention centers. The bill has picked up some cosponsors, but hasn’t made it to a vote and looks to be a non-starter in a Republican-controlled Congress. The hunger strike comes as GEO Group looks to renew their contract to operate the facility in the coming months. The existing contract expires in October, and a new open-bid contract was expected to post by the end of July — but there is still no sign of it on fbo.gov  and Munoz says he does not know when it will be unveiled. The company announced their 2nd quarter earnings this week, coming in above projections. “We continue to create value for shareholders,” said CEO George Zoley in a quarterly earnings conference call Wednesday morning. “We have improved occupancy across our real estate portfolio, particularly at the federal level.” Creating value for GEO Group’s shareholders tends to be at odds with providing comfortable accommodations for detainees — the less GEO spends providing the detention services the government pays them for, the more profit they make. But if the government was asking for the right things in it’s contracts, GEO could easily provide better conditions. A GEO Group facility in Australia expected to open in 2017 will offer an “an unprecedented level of in-prison rehabilitation and community reentry services,” according to John Hurley, Senior Vice President of GEO Corrections and Detention. Hurley said the facility will showcase the full GEO Group Continuum of Care, to include “community reentry services, education, training, employment, assistance, housing, substance abuse and mental health counseling.” The NWDC does not offer any of these things because they are not stipulated in GEO Group’s current contract with ICE. As a publicly traded company, GEO’s first responsibility is to their shareholders who benefit when costs are kept low. So will the ongoing problems at the facility hurt GEO Groups chances of securing the contract? They certainly could. “Anything that may compromise the security or welfare of the detainees is of concern to ICE,” wrote Munoz in an email Wednesday. An optimist might imagine fruitful negotiations between the detainees and ICE leading to a new contract that requires GEO Group to provide more of those cadillac options for services at the NWDC. But with both the negotiations and the supposedly public contract renewal process shrouded in secrecy, it’s anyone’s guess if or how that could actually happen.


Mar 26, 2014 slog.thestranger.com

In an interview yesterday with The Stranger, Representative Adam Smith (D-9) said conditions at the Northwest Detention Center in Tacoma—where hundreds of jailed immigrants launched a hunger strike this month and one remains under medical observation—were "shocking" and "very, very tough" when he visited last week. As a result, Smith intends to introduce legislation to create minimum standards under which immigrants can be detained. The hunger strike has since gone national. "I'm trying to put pressure on them to get the conditions changed however possible," Smith said. Which makes sense, seeing as his district, stretching from South Seattle to Federal Way, is one of the most diverse in the country. Immigrants make up 16 percent of his constituents and about half of all kids in the district have at least one immigrant parent. Smith said he's voiced his concerns both in a letter to Immigration and Customs Enforcement and verbally to Department of Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson. Rations at the jail are "wildly inconsistent, and sometimes inedible," Smith said three hunger strikers told him during his visit. The detainees are also protesting high prices for commissary items and $1 per day wages for menial work within the facility. "It is really problematic," Smith continued, "having a private company running this." He pointed out that not only is the center run by the private prison company GEO Group, but that GEO uses subcontractors to handle meals for the detainees and other other aspects of running the 1575-bed facility. "So I can imagine that the less they pay for the food, the more money they make." Besides the conditions inside the jail, "there are real concerns over whether we should be deporting these people," Smith said. One of the hunger strikers he spoke with moved here at age 9. He was arrested for assault long ago, but no charges were filed against him. Because he was undocumented, immigration agents subsequently took him to the NWDC pending possible deportation. "These people are being ripped apart from their families," Smith told me. "Is that making our community a better place? I don't think so." Smith is in the beginning stages of crafting legislation that could address everything from mandatory bed quotas (Smith called them "inherently wrong") to the government's reliance on corporations to run immigrant detention centers. The scope of the legislation will depend on how the Obama administration responds to his inquiries. In the absence of serious reforms, he said, "we may have to get out of the private prison business." It's great to hear a legislator condemn the government's aggressive detention and deportation policies, and to question the use of private prison companies, which in and of itself is a scandal. What's not so great is that it took detainees starving themselves in order to shake lawmakers into taking action. That means it's up to immigrants and their activist supporters to keep the pressure on until change materializes.


Mar 18, 2014 latinoadvocacy.org

BREAKING: HUNGER STRIKES SPREAD TO TEXAS DETENTION CENTER

SYSTEMIC ABUSE BY GEO GROUP AND ICE EXPOSED IN MULTI-STATE EFFORT BY DETAINEES IN PRIVATE FACILITIES

Tacoma, WA, Conroe, TX – After a massive hunger strike inside the Tacoma Detention Center reached its 11th day, detainees found their effort spreading to other facilities inspired by their demands. Last night at midnight, immigrants held at the Joe Corley Detention Center in Conroe, TX initiated their own fast in protest of their treatment at the facility run by the same company, the GEO Group, and as part of the nation-wide call for an end to deportations. Immigrant rights activist Maru Mora Villalpando sees momentum building for reforms but expressed concern over the reaction of ICE and the GEO Group: “The hunger strikers are civil rights leaders taking a brave stand against inhumane treatment. At the Northwest Detention Center, GEO Group and ICE have retaliated by putting leaders in solitary confinement and threatening to force-feed others.  With the strike spreading to Texas, it’s time for ICE and GEO Group to recognize the detainees’ demands instead of engaging in retaliation.” Bob Libal, Executive Director of Grassroots Leadership in Austin, Texas added, “Immigrants in detention should not have to go to such extreme lengths to blow the whistle on mistreatment within ICE’s vast and largely privatized immigration detention system.  GEO Group, the for-profit prison corporation that operates both these detention centers, has a well-documented track record around Texas of canceled contracts and scandal-ridden facilities, including at several prisons for immigrants in Texas.” In the recent White House budget proposal to Congress, the administration sought funding for a quota of more than 30,000 individuals to be held in detention on a daily basis, upholding what has been an unprecedented practice of subjecting immigration enforcement to an arbitrary line item.  Detainees say that the treatment they receive is a result of the profit-seeking element that has inserted itself into the detention system. An attorney who confirmed the strike this morning after visiting the Conroe, TX facility, communicated the hunger strikers demands to be:

•             Stop the deportations

•             Just treatment for detainees

•             End overcrowding in the cells

•             End double judgment for old cases

•             Food with nutrition in it

•             Better medical care

•             Lower calling prices

•             Lower rates at commissary

and said the detainees wanted it known that they were inspired by the on-going Washington State efforts. An eight-page handwritten letter from the Washington State hunger strikers explaining their demands is available upon request. The letter states, in part, “[W]e join ourselves to that effort and demand that the Federal Executive (Mr. President Barack Obama) use his presidential authority and order a total stop to the unjust deportations that are separating families, destroying homes, and bringing uncertainty, insecurity and unhappy futures to our children, our loved ones.”


Mar 11, 2014 msnbc.com

Immigrant detainees are facing threats of retaliation on their fifth day of a hunger strike at the Northwest Detention Center in Tacoma, Washington, according to supporters who have spoken with the strike’s leaders. Sandy Restrepo, an immigration attorney, said Monday that some of the detainees at the Immigration and Customs Enforcement facility have been threatened with forced feedings, and that detainees seeking asylum had been threatened with the denial of their cases. Maru Mora Villalpando, a representative with Latino Advocacy, a group that has been supporting the hunger strikers, said that some of the men who started eating yesterday had rejoined the strike. Villalpando also said that one of the group’s lawyers is following up on allegations that two detainees were physically compelled to sign deportation papers. “We know the retaliation continues,” she told msnbc. ICE officials said in a statement Monday that 130 of the facility’s nearly 1,300 detainees were still on strike. “In accordance with ICE detention standards, detainees who do not eat anything for 72 hours will be considered to be on a hunger strike and referred to the medical department for further evaluation,” the statement read. Northwest Detention Center is run by GEO Group, a private corrections company that has faced criticism for lobbying against immigration reform despite promises it would stay out of last year’s debate over changing the current system. Nearly two million immigrants have been deported during President Obama’s administration. “Most [undocumented immigrants] are detained because they are working without a social security number, but the federal government is okay with these people working for GEO group for one dollar a day,” Villalpando told msnbc. “It’s a kind of slave labor, and the conditions are just not humane”.

And the protesters are not afraid of retaliation if it brings more attention to conditions at ICE facilities around the United States. “They want the public to know that they’re people, and this is supposed to be a civil proceeding, and they’re being [in a way] neither civil or even human … they’re treated worse than animals.” The strike began Friday as a protest against ongoing deportations and substandard conditions at the detention center, including quality of food and treatment, lower commissary prices, and better pay for work done at the facility. Detainees are fed potatoes and milk. According to Villalpando, snacks available in the commissary can cost the equivalent of five days’ pay. On Monday, the detainees expanded their demands to include release on bond for detainees, saying in a letter, “Without a bond we spend months, even one-to-two years locked up without knowing what’s going to happen to us and our families and without being able to economically support our families, causing them to fall deeper into poverty.” Family and supporters of the protesters have planned a press conference at 5 p.m. Tuesday in Tacoma, where the wives of some of the men on strike will also offer updates. Supporters of the hunger strikers said that 1,200 detainees began the strike on Friday, while ICE officials put the number at 750. “[The protesters] see themselves as whistleblowers, as civil rights activists. They know some of their cases might end with them being deported, but they know it’s not just about them,” Villalpando said.

 

Mar 10, 2014 latimes.com

About 330 detainees were on a hunger strike for better conditions at an immigration detention center in Tacoma, Wash., as of Sunday afternoon, according to U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement. The hunger strike at the Northwest Detention Center began Friday, and at one point more than half of the facility's 1,300 detainees - 750 - were refusing meals, an ICE official told the Los Angeles Times. The facility is privately owned and operated by the GEO Group Inc., a government contractor. It houses immigration detainees during the deportation process. According to an immigration activist website run by the National Day Laborer Organizing Network, the facility's detainees were protesting "the ongoing deportations overseen by Immigration and Customs Enforcement and the inhumane conditions at the for-profit detention center owned and operated by the GEO Corporation." The detainees were seeking better food, better treatment, an increase in the facility's $1-a-day wages for work, and lower commissary prices, according to the labor network's website, www.notonemoredeportation.com. As of Sunday afternoon, the 330 detainees who were refusing meals had not yet crossed the 72-hour threshold when prison officials must refer them for medical evaluation, according to a background statement provided by an ICE official. GEO Group describes the Northwest Detention Center as a combination minimum-, medium- and maximum-security facility. Some of the detainees in the facility have violent criminal histories, "including gang violence, rape and murder," according to the ICE statement, which added that the facility's most dangerous detainees have been placed on lockdown as a "safety precaution" during the hunger strike.

 

March 08, 2014 abclocal.go.com

TACOMA, Washington -- Immigrant-rights activists rallied outside the Northwest Detention Center on Saturday, while at least 750 detainees protested their treatment and called for an end to deportations with a hunger strike. The U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement department said on Saturday morning that 750 detainees had refused to eat and said they were on a hunger strike. Activist Maru Mora Villalpando said the hunger strike started Friday as a protest of deportations as well as center conditions. She said the hunger strikers, who she believes number more than 1,000, are seeking better food and treatment as well as better pay for center jobs. "We are concerned for their welfare, and we support their brave stand against inhumane treatment. We are gravely concerned about retaliation, particularly against the hunger-strike leaders," Villalpando said. The center currently houses nearly 1,300 people being investigated for possible deportation. ICE spokesman Andrew Munoz said the agency respects the right of detainees. "ICE fully respects the rights of all people to express their opinion without interference," Munoz said. "While we continue to work with Congress to enact common-sense immigration reform, ICE remains committed to sensible, effective immigration enforcement." The detainees are under continuous observation by center staff and medical personnel. ICE detention standards state that a detainee who has not eaten for 72 hours is considered to be on a hunger strike.

Oct. 14, 2012  LEWIS KAMB The News Tribune
The private prison contractor that operates one of the nation’s largest immigration detention centers on Tacoma’s Tideflats has agreed to negotiate a long-­neglected agreement with the City of Tacoma that would spell out public safety responsibilities should disaster ever strike the lock-down facility. Discussions about a memorandum of understanding, or MOU, between The GEO Group and the city kicked off during a Sept. 7 meeting that included Tacoma Fire Chief Jim Duggan and Lowell Clark, warden of the Northwest Detention Center. “It was a very positive meeting,” said Deputy Fire Chief Jolene Davis. “All sides are committed to working on the MOU that you know is required by the Department of Homeland Security.” Meeting participants – including federal Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials – also discussed allowing city fire personnel to review the facility’s evacuation plan and conduct joint emergency preparedness training drills with the detention center’s employees. “We want to make sure that we know what their evacuation plan is to ensure the safety of all people in that facility,” Duggan said. A second meeting is set for Wednesday, city officials said. The latest talks between GEO and the city emerged after The News Tribune raised questions about the prison company’s contractual requirements during reporting on Center of Detention, a special report about the Northwest Detention Center published in September. Among other details, the report noted the facility was built on fill material prone to liquefaction during earthquakes and within an area susceptible to tsunami flooding and volcanic hazards, according to scientists. A corporate spokesman for Florida-based GEO declined last month to directly respond to a reporter’s questions for the special report, instead issuing a general statement that the facility “provides a safe and secure environment for its detainee population and staff.” Since opening with 500 beds in 2004, the detention center has expanded into a 1,575-bed facility with an average daily population of detainees that ranks it fourth-highest among hundreds of immigrant detention facilities nationwide. Under federal contracts dating back eight years, GEO, the detention center’s owner and operator, and its predecessor, the Correctional Services Corp., were supposed to have “written agreements with appropriate state and local authorities that will allow the contractor to make requests for assistance in the event of any emergency incident that would adversely affect the community.” Such agreements are meant to clearly spell out the roles and responsibilities – and potentially, any cost recovery protocols for them – for any special assistance provided by local governments to the detention center during riots, catastrophes or other emergencies. Records show that the city and CSC worked on draft agreements shortly before and after the detention center opened in 2004. But those agreements never were formalized, despite some Tacoma public safety officials assuring City Council members years ago that they would be. After a reporter asked about the contractual obligation, an ICE spokesman told The News Tribune in August his agency was satisfied that GEO, which took ownership of the detention center in 2005, had sufficiently tried to meet the requirement. “Each year, The GEO Group sends an official correspondence to fulfill that contract obligation,” spokesman Andrew Munoz said in an email. “But so far, they’ve done it without any success.” Tacoma City Attorney Elizabeth Pauli and other city officials later said they knew of no such correspondences, and a public records request submitted by the newspaper turned up no such documents. Munoz said in an email Friday that ICE officials are supportive of the current talks to address the issue. “ICE is pleased with this development as our top oversight concerns are ensuring the safety of the public, detainees and those who work at the detention center,” he said. On Friday, Assistant City Manager Tansy Hayward, who attended last month’s meeting, noted that the city recently sought to re-examine GEO’s public safety and financial responsibilities to the city and “to make sure we were appropriately responding.” The issue emerged as a budget-related topic earlier this year, after former Fire Chief Ron Stephens told council members his department’s costs for responding to service calls to the detention center in 2011 totaled about $60,000. City staff later examined potential cost-recovery ideas, finding that none could fairly be applied to the facility. They also noted that the detention center paid more than $1 million annually in property and business taxes. Hayward said the city’s current discussions with GEO focus on public safety, not cost recovery. “I think that will be part of the conversation,” Hayward said. “But at this point for us, it’s really about ensuring there are good plans for public safety in place. It’s really clear The GEO Group shares that feeling and is committed to cooperating.” With the Fire Department nearly ready to launch operations of the Port Emergency Warning System, or PEWS, part of the discussions with GEO are focused on how the new system might benefit the detention center, fire officials said. Paid by federal port security grants, PEWS will use a system of speakers positioned around the Port of Tacoma to sound sirens and voice instructions, warning the public about chemical spills, tsunamis or other hazards. It’s meant primarily for people with unfettered movement, but fire officials believe the system also can benefit the lock-down detention center to some extent. “It’s not the magic bullet that takes care of all of our concerns if we have some big lahar or some other disaster,” Davis said. “But it’s certainly a step in the right direction.” Local activist Tim Smith, who has raised public safety concerns about the detention center for eight years, welcomed news of the emerging talks. “This is long overdue, so I’m very glad these discussions between GEO and the city are finally taking place,” Smith said Friday. “But I would hope that the city makes sure there’s public input in this process. For us to be excluded at this time would be a serious mistake.”

February 19, 2011 News Tribune
Federal prosecutors this week charged an employee of the Northwest Detention Center in Tacoma with smuggling drugs to people detained in the facility. Larry Joe Heath Jr. is accused of one count of distribution of cocaine, according to records filed Thursday in U.S. District Court in Tacoma. Heath is alleged to have smuggled cocaine, marijuana, methamphetamine and other contraband into the facility between September 2010 and January 2011, court records show. The center, which is on the Tideflats, houses people suspected of being in the United States illegally and other immigration violations. Federal investigators received a tip about the alleged smuggling in late January and confronted Heath, court records show. He allegedly told investigators that he carried the drugs into the center in his pocket or socks and left the drugs in a mop closet, where detainees could access them. Heath received money in exchange for the drugs, records show. Prosecutors also contend Heath used drugs with detainees while on the job.

August 14, 2009 AP
Federal officials say guards from the private company that runs the Northwest Detention Center in Tacoma used pepper spray to control immigrant detainees who were refusing to follow orders. U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement spokeswoman Lorie Dankers says detainees weren't responding to orders Sunday night to go to bed. Guards from Florida-based GEO Group Inc. then used pepper spray to gain control of the detainees. Dankers says the sprayed detainees - all male - were checked out by doctors at the detention center. No major injuries were reported. Dankers says immigration lawyers had raised concerns after some detainees did not make scheduled court appointments following the incident. She says those appointments were rescheduled. The Obama administration has called for changes at the way illegal immigrants are treated at detention centers, including placing federal employees in charge of monitoring the treatment of detainees in the largest facilities.

March 12, 2009 The News Tribune
The Geo Group Inc., operator of the federal immigration lockup on the Tacoma Tideflats, has gone to court to block the City of Tacoma from releasing building plans and other public records to a civil rights activist. Releasing the approximately 11 volumes of information would pose a security risk to the Northwest Detention Center, attorney Joan Mell argued in a lawsuit filed March 4 in Pierce County Superior Court. The company is asking a judge to block the release, citing security and trade secret grounds. “Access to the information increases the likelihood of escape attempts and makes power and phone lines vulnerable,” Mell argued. Florida-based Geo Group owns and operates the Northwest Detention Center. It has a contract with the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency. The company is expanding the facility from 1,000 to 1,500 beds and submitted detailed building records to the City of Tacoma, according to the lawsuit. Tim Smith, an activist with the Bill of Rights Defense Committee-Tacoma, requested the records last month. On Feb. 25, city officials informed the Geo Group that the requested materials had been compiled and would be turned over to Smith on March 2. A hearing is scheduled for June 26.

February 23, 2009 AP
A former administrator at a privately run immigration lockup in Tacoma won't serve any jail time after she admitted hiring guards without background checks to speed up the process. The Northwest Detention Center holds about 1,000 people accused of immigration violations, mainly detainees from Alaska, Oregon and Washington. Sylvia Wong, a former hiring manager at the center, will serve two years of probation and 100 hours of community service under the sentence issued Monday by U.S. District Judge Benjamin Settle. Wong pleaded guilty in November to making false statements to investigators. A handful of the guards she hired would not have passed background checks. The U.S. attorney's office in Seattle did not recommend jail time, saying that Wong took full responsibility for her actions, is well-educated and an unlikely felon.

February 23, 2009 AP
If it wasn't for Timothy Smith's intense opposition to the Northwest Detention Center in Tacoma, the state might never have noticed that the private company that owns the facility was violating environmental rules. The detention center - the federal government's prison-like complex in Tacoma that holds suspected illegal immigrants, often for months - was built near the former site of a coal gasification plant that left behind heavy pollution in the soil. According to the state Department of Ecology, Boca Raton, Fla.-based The GEO Group violated an "environmental covenant" by not informing the state before moving any of the soil, which may be contaminated. The company group was required to notify the state if it planned to do any construction on the site that could cause a release of contamination to the environment, said Joyce Mercuri of ecology's Toxics Cleanup Program. "The GEO Group did not inform us about the expansion," Mercuri said. Prompted by Smith's questions, the department informed the GEO group of the violation and is now working with the company to properly handle construction the site to meet the state's requirements. A representative for GEO, though, said the company was not aware of any violations. "Construction for the expansion at the facility began under the required permits issued by the City of Tacoma," said Pablo Paez, GEO's spokesman, in an e-mail. "We are not aware of any official findings of any violations by the state Department of Ecology." Smith's tip to the Department of Ecology was part of a passionate battle he has waged this past year against the GEO Group and the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, accusing them of environmental violations and other misconduct. Ultimately, Smith - a member of the advocacy group Bill of Rights Defense Committee and an Army veteran - wants the detention center closed. But GEO has begun working on a 30 percent expansion of the 1,000-bed complex that will add nearly 600 beds on the eve of new contract bids with the federal government. The detention center's expansion comes at a time when federal authorities have cracked down on illegal immigration in this region. Deportations from Washington, Oregon and Alaska increased by 35 percent in 2008 compared to 2007, totaling more than 10,000, according to ICE. Most of those people arrested in the region were held and processed at the Tacoma detention center. For now, Smith's goal is to slow down the expansion by asking questions and pestering all parties involved. The 46-year-old activist has waged his battle against the expansion on various fronts, lobbying the Tacoma city council to move against the expansion. He has raised questions on how ICE's contract proposal almost exactly matches GEO's expansion plans, which ICE has said was not solicited by the government. Smith also monitors the news for missteps by GEO, and keeps track of their earnings reports, on top of doing surveillance on at the actual work site. "When one fights injustice, when one breaks down the barrier of fear and xenophobia, it takes time," Smith said. "I think we're pretty much at a breakthrough with the whole situation. It's not the time to quit. It's time go forward full steam." Smith can claim a small victory. He says GEO will not be able to meet its goal of opening the detention center by September, the month in which the new contract proposal from ICE called for having the expansion operational. Paez, GEO's spokesman, declined to comment on the expansion's schedule. "We want to treat people like we want to be treated," Smith said. "This is a society of justice and that has been thrown out the window in Tacoma." The detention center opened its doors five years ago. Originally, the GEO group was not the owner, taking over the facility after it acquired Correctional Services Corporation in 2005. The current contract with ICE expires on April 23, 2009. Tacoma Mayor Bill Baarsma said that the city is "stuck" with the detention center for now, a facility he would have been opposed to hosting in the city had he'd been in government at the time it was built. Baarsma said part of the problems arising from the detention center is that a private company operates it. Last year, a GEO administrator pleaded guilty in federal court to hiring nearly 100 security guards without background checks, something ICE officials didn't catch for two years. "You have no accountability, no culpability" Baarsma said of the contracting practices. Worldwide, GEO operates nearly 66 correctional facilities in the U.S, Australia, South Africa and England. It has a total capacity of about 62,000 beds. According to ICE, the daily cost to house a detainee at Tacoma is $95, and there are about 1,000 detainees in the facility at any given time. Lorie Dankers, ICE's spokeswoman in Seattle, said the agency was not aware of any violations by GEO. "We have not been contacted by Department of Ecology or by GEO," Dankers said. "There's no indication that the (Tacoma detention center) doesn't meet our requirements." Smith quickly disputed Dankers' statement, promptly showing off e-mail messages between himself and ICE officials in Washington, D.C., discussing the environmental violation.

January 9, 2009 The News Tribune
Construction to expand the federal immigration lockup on the Tacoma Tideflats might have violated restrictions put into place after an environmental cleanup at the site, state officials said Thursday. The Geo Group, a Florida-based contractor that runs the Northwest Detention Center, dug through clean soil into potentially contaminated groundwater in apparent violation of a restrictive covenant imposed in 2003, according to the state Department of Ecology. Risk to the public is believed to be minimal. State inspectors planned to visit the site today. “We’ve asked the Geo Group to prepare an application to our voluntary cleanup program and give it to us by Monday,” said Lisa Pearson, an engineer with the state’s Toxics Cleanup Program. A local civil liberties watchdog group called the Bill of Rights Defense Committee-Tacoma first alerted state officials to potential problems, prompting a review. A request for comment made through the Geo Group’s corporate headquarters received no reply Thursday. Earlier in the week, Joan Mell, an attorney who represents the company locally, said there was no intent to disregard any environmental regulations. “They’re very concerned about being a good neighbor,” she said. Pearson, who’s been in communication with local Geo Group representatives, said there was apparently “some kind of mix-up” and that the company was unaware the property was under a restrictive covenant stemming from the previous cleanup of the site, known as the Tacoma Tar Pits. Activists, who have fought against the facility on many fronts, expressed environmental concerns early on. “No matter what happens, we in Tacoma have a moral responsibility to 500-plus detainees soon to be living above one of our most toxic areas,” Tim Smith, a spokesman for the Bill of Rights group, wrote in a News Tribune editorial in 2004, before the detention center opened. The facility has about 1,000 beds. The expansion would bring that number up to 1,500. “This just confirms what we’ve been saying about this place,” Smith said Thursday. The apparent violation doesn’t require activity at the site to be halted, Pearson said. Geo Group has said tests indicate the water in question is no longer dangerously contaminated, but the state hasn’t reviewed those results, she said. Bill of Rights Defense Committee members expressed concern that contaminated water might be flowing from the site into local waterways, but there’s no evidence of that happening, Pearson said. State and federal officials are working with the company to monitor water quality, figure out the extent of any problem and determine what actions might be necessary, said Tamara Langton, a project manager with the federal Environmental Protection Agency in Seattle. The restrictive covenant requires a 30-day public comment period before the state approves any work that would violate restrictions, such as digging in certain areas. Since some of that work has already started, Pearson said she hopes to initiate a public comment period soon.

December 18, 2008 Weekly Volcano
Tacoma’s Bill of Rights Defense Committee is worried that sludge buried deep beneath a private immigrant prison on the Tacoma tide flats may be rising to the surface. No, not the metaphorical sludge created by what has been reported as deplorable treatment of people imprisoned at the Northwest Detention Center, which is run by Florida-based GEO Group. The Tacoma advocacy organization is concerned about the kind of sludge produced by a coal gasification plant that helped transform the once lovely plot of land into what the Environmental Protection Agency now calls the “Tacoma Tar Pits.” A letter sent last week to Superfund Project Manager Tamara Langton called for an emergency inspection of the site. The request was sent because BORDC members were concerned that construction activity associated with expansion of the prison has disturbed layers of soil that had been piled on top of decades of accumulated toxic gunk (one of many ways to keep toxins from being eaten by seagulls or leeching into nearby ground water). “Observations of ongoing grading, excavating, auguring, and soil compression activity indicate that a serious breach of the surface cap has occurred and contaminated subsurface groundwater and highly contaminated soils are being exposed ...” the letter reads. “There’s really not supposed to be any oil on the surface,” says Tim Smith, BORDC member and former military intelligence technician. “Our contention is that they’re bringing it up.” From 1924 to 1956, a coal gasification plant operated on the site, contaminating the soil with tars, according to EPA documents. In 1967, an auto recycler operated on the site, adding acid, lead, heavy metals, and several other kinds of toxic goo to the mix. Cleanup of the site, carried out under government supervision, removed the top 15 feet of contaminated soils on the 12-square-mile site and replaced it with fill. It’s a solution that Smith refers to in the letter as a “negligible risk solution to contain the contaminants in subsurface soils and waters,” punctuated by “as long as they remain undisturbed.” So here’s the concerning part: As construction crews prepare the Northwest Detention Center property for construction intended to make room for an extra 545 prisoners, they’re augering down as deep as 50 to 100 feet, disturbing and compressing the contaminated soil. The intent is to fill deep holes with gravel to stabilize the soil, which would likely liquefy in event of an earthquake. The side effect, Smith claims, is an earthen regurgitation of gunk that should have stayed buried. So far, visits from the EPA, the Department of Ecology, City of Tacoma and a private contractor haven’t turned up any water contamination, but there are concerns about the soils on the site, says Tamara Langton, EPA Region 10 superfund project manager. There are concerns about the soil that the EPA and other agencies will be looking into, including claims that deep augering is bringing toxins to the surface. The site also is currently facing its five-year review by the EPA, and officials will be paying special mind to concerns raised by the BORDC. “We don’t believe at this time that there is any harm posed to workers or people in the facility,” says Langton, adding, “We’re taking this very seriously.” Smith, meanwhile, isn’t just appealing to environmental agencies, and he’s unabashed in pointing out that his concern about the private prison goes beyond the environment. Beyond addressing concerns about toxic sludge, Smith is in the process of challenging a family of legal and procedural components that allowed GEO Group to move forward with it expansion. “I think this is the most horrible thing that the City of Tacoma could have allowed,” says Smith. “During my military service, I saw detention centers and what happened there. I’m stunned that this is happening here.” Phone calls to officials at the GEO Group were not returned.

November 6, 2008 AP
A privately run immigration lockup in Tacoma hired nearly 100 security guards without background checks, and U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement didn't catch the practice for two years, court documents show. Sylvia Wong, an administrator in charge of hiring at the Northwest Detention Center, pleaded guilty this week in federal court in Tacoma to one count of making a false statement, for lying to investigators. In her plea agreement, she admitted that soon after starting work in November 2005, she began hiring guards without background checks "because of the pressure she felt to get security personnel hired at the NWDC as quickly as possible." ICE auditors discovered early this year that 92 guards had been hired without the checks. The agency acknowledges that some of the guards have been fired following subsequent background checks, but won't say how many. "In response to this investigation we have implemented a multi-tiered vetting process ... so that no contractor or federal employee has sole responsibility to process and approve employment documents," ICE spokeswoman Lorie Dankers said Thursday. "We have taken proactive steps to prevent this from happening again." The Northwest Detention Center opened in 2004 and holds about 1,000 people accused of immigration violations, mainly detainees from Alaska, Oregon and Washington. It's run by the for-profit, Florida-based GEO Group Inc., with yearly reviews to ensure the facility meets ICE standards. A GEO Group spokesman has not returned several inquiries from the AP about Wong's case, the latest on Thursday. Her lawyer did not immediately return a call. On Thursday, ICE announced that 10,602 aliens had been deported from Alaska, Oregon and Washington in fiscal 2008 - a one-year record for the region and a jump of more than 35 percent from the previous year. Assistant U.S. Attorney Nicholas Brown said any pressure that Wong felt to hire guards quickly was self-imposed and did not come from higher-ups. If anything, he said, she was mostly trying "to make people happy." When guards are hired at the detention center, they are supposed to undergo a preliminary background check. If they pass, they are given "entry on duty" forms allowing them to begin work pending a more thorough check, which can take several months to more than a year. The plea agreement said that when Wong hired the guards, she fabricated "entry on duty" forms, allowing them to start work without any background check. In February, ICE discovered that the guards had been hired without the checks and searched Wong's office. The next month, when agents questioned her, she insisted she had not manufactured the forms - hence, the "false statement" charge against her. Brown said he did not know precisely how many of the guards Wong hired had been fired, but characterized the number as relatively small. Asked what the number was, Dankers said, "I'm going to decline comment on that." Asked why, she replied, "Because I am." She later called back to say policies prohibited her from discussing staffing levels - even though the number of fired guards has nothing to do with current staffing. According to the plea agreement, the detention center has up to 200 security, administrative, medical, food service and maintenance workers. Wong faces zero to six months when she is sentenced in February.

September 30, 2008 AP
Federal authorities are taking a second look at security guards at the Northwest Detention Center, a privately run immigration lockup in Tacoma, after finding that some were hired without preliminary background checks, The Associated Press has learned. "Clearly this is a cause for concern," said Virginia Kice, a spokeswoman for U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement. "We take great pride in the safety and the security at our facilities, and we need to make sure the people responsible for the safety and security of our facilities are themselves beyond reproach." Authorities released few details, citing an ongoing investigation, but a federal charge was filed Tuesday in U.S. District Court, accusing Sylvia Wong, a human relations specialist with GEO Group Inc., the private contractor that runs the center, of lying to ICE internal investigators when she claimed in April she did not falsely generate documents. The Northwest Detention Center opened in 2004 and holds about 1,000 people accused of immigration violations, mainly detainees from Alaska, Oregon and Washington. This summer, a report by an immigrant rights advocacy group alleged mistreatment of detainees there, including excessive strip searches and overcrowding. ICE officials dismissed it as a "work of fiction." Guards hired at the center are supposed to go through a preliminary background check, after which an "entry on duty" memorandum allows them to begin work pending the completion of a full background check, which can take several months to more than a year, Kice said. Wong is accused of fabricating the documents, allowing guards to begin work without the preliminary background check. Kice said she couldn't discuss why that allegedly was done, how long it might have been going on or in how many instances guards began working without background checks. "If someone was brought on board who had a prior criminal history ... that's one of the issues we're examining closely," she said, adding that in such a case "we'll take follow up action." Wong is still on the job, Assistant U.S. Attorney Nicholas Brown said. Wong's lawyer was out of the office Tuesday, and Wong did not return a message left on her work voice mail. GEO Group, based in Boca Renton, Fla., did not return e-mails seeking comment. The study on conditions at the lockup was released by Seattle-based OneAmerica, an immigrant rights advocacy group, and the International Human Rights Clinic at Seattle University Law School. They based it largely on interviews with detainees, family members and immigration lawyers. "This really just points to what we had in our report, that there's no oversight over these detention centers, and contractors can get away with all kinds of things," Pramila Jayapal, executive director of OneAmerica, said Tuesday. "We'd like to know what kind of checks were done ... to make sure they don't have guards that might be prone to be abusive," Jayapal added. The report came out soon after ICE announced an increase of nearly 40 percent in deportations out of Washington, Oregon and Alaska over the first nine months of the fiscal year. More than 7,300 people were deported from the region in that period.

July 16, 2008 Seattle Times
Six immigrants being flown by federal authorities to Alabama last summer were denied the use of bathrooms for seven hours and forced to sit in their own excrement, according to a new report by the Seattle University School of Law. The 65-page report, "Voices From Detention," examined the treatment of detainees at the Northwest Detention Center in Tacoma. In the report, detainees told researchers about one man — a mentally ill Cambodian — who they say was punched by U.S. marshals and later struggled to breathe after a hood was put on his head during the cross-country flight. The alleged incident occurred as detainees were being transferred temporarily from the detention center in Tacoma, as sometimes is the case when authorities need to free up bed space in advance of a big raid. Immigration officials called the report a "work of fiction." They said detainees are never denied bathroom privileges on these flights and that they have no reports of any of this having happened. The report's findings, released during a news conference Tuesday by the law school's human-rights clinic in collaboration with the immigrant-rights group OneAmerica, is intended to draw attention to conditions at the privately run Tacoma facility. The findings come as immigrant detention has become the fastest-growing form of incarceration in the U.S., the study's authors noted. Gwynne Skinner, a visiting professor from Willamette University College of Law in Oregon who oversaw the study, said the alleged conditions violate international human rights. Seattle University students interviewed 41 detainees — one-third of them refugees — four attorneys and one family member to gauge their experiences at the center. The real names of the detainees were not used in the report. Many of their complaints stemmed from overcrowding and ranged from overzealous strip-searches to delays in receiving medical care. "As Americans concerned with upholding our Constitution and assuring justice and human rights, we should remember that America is degraded when the government fails to uphold those very rights that make us a great country," said Pramila Jayapal, executive director of OneAmerica, formerly Hate Free Zone. Officials with the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, which pays the detention center's operator, GEO Group, $95 a day for each detainee it houses, said the report is "filled with inaccuracies and vague allegations." Lorie Dankers, spokeswoman for ICE, said the detention center meets, or in many cases exceeds, its own as well as national detention standards. "People don't like to be in detention," she said. "But there are consequences to breaking federal immigration law. And when detainees appeal their cases, it lengthens their time in detention. They can at any time give up their appeal" and leave the U.S.

July 15, 2008 AP
From excessive strip searches and overcrowding to a lack of due process, an immigrant advocacy group alleges detainees are being mistreated at the Northwest Detention Center in Tacoma, which houses illegal aliens in the process of deportation. In a study released by Seattle-based OneAmerica and the International Human Rights Clinic at Seattle University's law school, the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement's operation at the Tacoma detention center is harshly criticized. The report contains anecdotes in which detainees describe what they call degrading treatment by guards and subpar conditions at the jail. An ICE spokeswoman in Seattle dismissed the report as "a work of fiction." Detentions nationally increased from 95,000 in 2001 to more than 300,000 last year, according to OneAmerica. Immigration spokeswoman Lorie Dankers in Seattle said she could not confirm those figures. "Probably the most striking, stark fact is that there's no accountability around conditions and standards, which is only made even more stark when you think of detention as being the fastest- growing form of incarceration in the United States," Pramila Jayapal, executive director of OneAmerica, said Monday. Immigration officials denied the report's contentions, saying the detention facility complies with industry standards. The Geo Group, the Boca Raton, Fla.-based private contractor that runs the facility, declined comment Monday. "The report authored by Seattle University and OneAmerica is considered a work of fiction by ICE," Dankers said. "The information contained in the report has numerous inaccuracies and vague references that could not be corroborated or independently verified." Most of the accounts come from 46 interviews conducted by Seattle U. students between 2007 and 2008. Detainees were interviewed, as were family members and immigration lawyers. In some cases, researchers did not disclose names or dates in the accounts. The researchers also had sessions with ICE officials and tours of the facility. One account in the 42-page report alleges that U.S. marshals denied some detainees access to restrooms for seven hours during flights from Seattle in 2007, leading some of the immigrants to defecate in their seats. Melissa Middlesworth, a federal Justice Department spokeswoman based in Washington, D.C., said she could immediately comment on that allegation without closer examination of the report. Another woman cited in the report said she was strip searched several times after visits with her lawyer. Dankers said thorough strip searches are uncommon and only done when officers think there's probable cause to conclude that inappropriate contact took place between a detainee and a visitor. In another section, the report alleged that a man under treatment for a cancerous brain tumor was deported, even though doctors had warned that his condition would worsen. Dankers said ICE deported a man with cancer in January 2008, and had followed doctors' recommendations. Also, ICE policy calls for deportees with health issues to be given a week's worth of medication after deportation, she said. The report also alleged that many immigrants were pressured to sign documents they did not fully understand and faced verbal abuse from guards if they delayed. Also, a lack of meeting rooms for detainees and lawyers led to hurried meetings lacking privacy. The detention center opened in 2004 and has been expanded twice. Earlier this month, city of Tacoma officials confirmed that the Geo Group plans to expand the facility by 50 percent, to a capacity of 1,500 detainees. Dankers said the center typically runs near capacity, which is about 1,000 detainees. It houses detainees mainly from Alaska, Oregon and Washington. The daily cost to house a detainee is $95, Dankers said. One detainee has died while in custody. Dankers said the Pierce County medical examiner's office reported he died of heart disease. "We really want to call attention and educate the general public to what's happening in our own backyard," Jayapal said. OneAmerica included recommendations in its report for better treatment, including better attorney access, improved officer training, increased privacy and improved medical care. The report came a few days after ICE announced an increase of nearly 40 percent in deportations out of Washington, Oregon and Alaska over the first nine months of the fiscal year. More than 7,300 people have been deported from the region in that period, immigration officials said.

December 10, 2007 The News Tribune
Hundreds of detainees were sick. Many complained of severe abdominal cramps and diarrhea. The medical staff was called in early but couldn’t cope with the long lines. The culprit was Clostridium perfringens, a foodborne bacterium that poisoned hundreds at the Northwest Detention Center on Tacoma’s Tideflats in August, according to public documents recently released to The News Tribune. It was the largest food poisoning outbreak in Pierce County this year, Health Department spokeswoman Joby Winans said. The incident also fueled criticism of the 1,000-bed privately operated immigration detention center, which has been the subject of protests in Tacoma. The poisoning likely began Aug. 11 with a lunch of turkey and potato casserole. Many detainees wrote in surveys that the meat served that day looked raw and smelled odd. The department’s food experts believe the potatoes – which were cooked the day before, cooled and reheated for the meal – allowed the bacteria to flourish. By about 9 p.m., about 300 detainees were ill, most with diarrhea. Detention center staff told detainees they had to wait until the in-house medical clinic opened in the morning, but the volume of complaints prompted the administration to call clinic staff at 4 a.m. and ask them to come in early. Only 197 people were seen at the medical clinic. “Others likely came to the clinic but left without being seen, due to long lines,” the Health Department’s investigation report states. Most people, the report continues, recovered rapidly, and no one required hospitalization. The Health Department was contacted about the outbreak Aug. 12, and it sent a food safety specialist that day to review food handling procedures. Tests and surveys were unable to pinpoint the exact source of the illness. Tests on detainees’ stool samples showed high levels of C. perfringens, but the food samples were negative. The Health Department report stated that while “the food item with the strongest association with illness” was the sausage served with dinner, the time frame of the onset of illness suggests that lunch led to the apparent poisoning. The report also identified several problems with food preparation procedures at the detention center. Potatoes, the report said, were prepared a day in advance, cooled and reheated prior to distribution to detainees, a practice that can contribute to outbreaks. “The abuse of temperature can be a real problem” with C. perfringens outbreaks, said Barbara Bruemmer, a senior lecturer in epidemiology at the University of Washington. If food is not cooled in the proper manner, she said, it can become a home for the bacteria. In its food poisoning investigation, the Health Department recommended that the detention center refrain from preparing some food in advance and that detention center kitchen managers take a food safety course. Lorie Dankers, a public affairs specialist with Immigration and Customs Enforcement, said employees of The GEO Group, the corporation that operates the detention center, have complied with the recommendation about attending food safety courses and have ended the practice of making food long in advance.

August 15, 2007 Seattle Times
About 300 immigrants being held at the Northwest Detention Center in Tacoma spent the early part of this week recovering from suspected food poisoning. Tacoma-Pierce County Health Department officials said they were contacted Saturday night after about 180 detainees were treated for diarrhea, nausea and vomiting at the detention-center clinic. They had been served three meals that day that included hamburger-potato casserole for lunch and beef sausage and coleslaw for dinner. Most began showing symptoms late Saturday, Department of Homeland Security spokeswoman Lorie Dankers said, adding that detention-center staff, who sometimes eat there, also got ill. Joby Winans, public health-information officer, said Tacoma-Pierce County health officials were at the detention center Sunday, Monday and again Tuesday to try to determine what made so many people sick. "It's a scientific mystery at this point," Winans said. "The good news is that no one was seriously ill. They were uncomfortable, yes, but not seriously ill." Viki Sandote said her brother-in-law, Jose Ojeda Esquivel, who has been in detention since Aug. 1, called her Sunday night to say that everyone in his unit had become ill. "He said there were a lot of people who were vomiting and had diarrhea and couldn't sleep," she said. "Someone even passed out from dizziness." Dankers said that by Tuesday most people appeared to have recovered. The facility must adhere to strict national standards for food preparation, and a licensed, trained chef oversees the preparations. "We serve 1,000 people three hot meals a day," Dankers said. The Department of Homeland Security contracts with The GEO Group, a national detention-management company, to run the detention center, which opened in April 2004. It primarily houses immigrants from Washington, Oregon and Alaska facing deportation, although more recently it also has held people brought in from elsewhere.

June 17, 2007 News Tribune
Demonstrators rally in Tacoma in support of more than 100 jailed migrant workers brought from Oregon who might be deported. About 60 to 70 protesters gathered Saturday afternoon at the entrances to the Northwest Detention Center off J Street East in the Tacoma Tideflats. The focus of their protest was a sweep by federal immigration agents in Portland on Tuesday that brought 131 migrant workers to the Tacoma detention facility, according to The Oregonian. The newspaper called the raid of American Staffing Resources and the Fresh Del Monte plant the largest in Oregon in recent memory. About 160 workers were reportedly detained for processing and deportation. Some were released for health and family reasons. Melissa Campos, a Seattle immigration attorney who was outside the center Saturday afternoon, said the Tacoma protest was aimed at supporting the detainees inside as well as their families, many of whom traveled north from the Willamette Valley to visit their loved ones. Campos said the protest was peaceful and ended about 3:30 p.m. Tacoma police were called about 12:40 p.m., said department spokesman Mark Fulghum, and a total of seven officers were dispatched throughout the afternoon. There were no arrests, he said. A group of about 10 Minutemen held a counterprotest, Campos said. The volunteer group opposes illegal immigration and proposed changes in federal law that would allow illegal workers to stay in the United States. The protesters included members of a number of immigrant rights groups, including Hate Free Zone, Washington Community Action Network and the Portland-based Sin Fronteras, Campos said. Tim Smith of the Bill of Rights Defense Committee of Tacoma sent out an e-mail to local civil rights activists to encourage attendance. “Your participation will show that some in Tacoma still care,” he said. The $115 million detention center opened in April 2004, a public-private partnership between the federal government and the Florida-based Correctional Services Corp. Company officials then described it as contributing $750,000 in annual property tax revenue, 190 jobs and a payroll of more than $6 million. Critics, such as Pierce County Prosecutor Gerry Horne, were concerned about the extra burden on local criminal justice resources. Campos said another protest at the center is planned for July 14.

November 4, 2004 Seattle Post-Intelligencer
Two people are suing a private corrections company, saying one was viciously beaten and the other sexually harassed while they were being held in Tacoma on federal immigration charges. Dozens of inmates witnessed the allegedly unprovoked beating in July of Jose Mancilla Gutierrez, 22, at the Northwest Detention Center, according to his attorney, Gwynne Skinner. Correctional Services Corp., which operates the detention center on the Tacoma tide flats for the federal Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency, is named as the defendant in the suit along with five of the company's guards and officials.
Skinner and her partner, Daniel Gross, filed suit in U.S. District Court last week for Mancilla and Marisela Manzo Torres, 27, who contends that officers sexually harassed her. Mancilla told his attorneys that on July 5, guards ordered detainees to return to their cells. As he was doing so, a guard identified only as Lt. McIntyre, "yelled at him to stop." "For no justifiable reason, defendant McIntyre then handcuffed plaintiff (Mancilla), threw him to the floor, and forcefully put his knee into plaintiff Mancilla's back," the lawsuit says. McIntyre then walked Mancilla to the exit and slammed his face into a wall. The impact chipped a tooth, split his lip and caused him to bleed. The lawsuit says McIntyre "repeatedly without justification shoved plaintiff Mancilla against the wall." McIntyre is alleged to have taken Mancilla into a hallway still visible to many cells, where he "violently threw plaintiff (Mancilla) to the ground." Then, joined by a guard identified only as Portillo, both officers "attacked plaintiff, beating and kicking him and repeatedly hitting his head against the floor," the lawsuit says. As the handcuffed Mancilla begged for mercy, the beating continued and blood pooled on the floor, the lawsuit says. Manzo also says in the lawsuit that she suffered mistreatment at the hands of McIntyre and other officers. The lawsuit accuses McIntyre of brushing against her "so that his arm or other parts of his body would touch her breasts." McIntyre passed her cell at night, "shined a flashlight over her body" and repeatedly said "show me." She complied, lifting her blanket, out of fear, according to the lawsuit. Manzo says that a guard described only as officer Twogood worked in a control room during the night shift and would engage in sexual banter with Manzo over an intercom in her cell.

July 31, 2002
Correctional Services Corporation today announces an award by the United States Immigration and Naturalization Services (INS) to construct and operate a 500-bed detention facility in Tacoma, Washington.  Construction of the new facility is expected to begin immediately, with the facility to be operational by the third quarter of 2003.  The new facility will have over 158,000 square feet of space for housing, medical, recreation and administrative services to include courtrooms to expedite deportation hearings.  (CSC)

Prairie Correctional Facility
Appleton, Minnesota
CCA
October 3, 2009 West Central Tribune
Prairie Correctional Facility in Appleton is cutting its workforce by more than half in response to declining inmate numbers. The facility notified 120 workers Friday that they would be laid off effective Dec. 1. It will leave a working staff of 110, according to Warden Tim Wengler. The decision was forced when the private, 1,600-bed prison learned that the State of Washington would be removing 100 inmates, the warden told community representatives at a meeting on Friday. There are currently 342 inmates in the facility from the states of Washington and Minnesota. The warden and other administrators met earlier in the morning with employees at the facility, and have been meeting individually with those affected by the layoffs. The cuts go across the board, and involve administrative and correctional positions alike, according to the warden. The facility has been working hard to avoid layoffs since last spring when the state of Minnesota began to pare its number of inmates at the facility. The facility had avoided layoffs by reducing the two-week work period to 72 hours and by allowing workers to transfer to other facilities within the Corrections Corporation of America, the prison’s owner. The Nashville, Tenn., based company is extending that offer to all of the employees to be laid off. Steve Conry, vice president of operations for CCA, said Appleton employees were told they could transfer to other CCA facilities and maintain full pay and benefits with the promise they could return to their Appleton jobs when they become available. Conry said CCA could absorb virtually all of the laid off employees at other facilities, but realizes that many will be unwilling to leave families behind to relocate. He said the Appleton facility will host a job fair, and offer classes on job seeking skills as well as bringing in Minnesota Work Force representatives to assist the employees in the coming weeks. The company is also continuing to work hard to market the facility to other states, according to Conry. He blamed the decline in inmate numbers on tight state budgets and the facility’s location. He said nationwide, CCA has just opened a new facility in Georgia and is seeing lots of demand for housing inmates in the Deep South and the Far West. Appleton’s location in the Midwest puts it at a disadvantage right now, since many states are wary of the expenses associated with transportation. “It’s hard for those states to make decisions to go long distance,’’ he said.

May 14, 2009 Morris Sun-Tribune
The State of Minnesota continues to slowly pluck its inmates from the Prairie Correctional Facility in Appleton, but what it takes with one hand could be returned with the other. Officials at the privately owned facility in Appleton are hopeful that legislation to repeal Minnesota’s short-term offender law will be signed into law. If so, state prisoners who now complete the final 180 days of their incarceration in county jails could be serving that time in the Appleton facility. The numbers vary, but there can be as many as 300 or 350 short-term offenders in county facilities at any one time. They could help make up for some of the long-term Minnesota offenders the facility is now losing, said Timothy Wengler, warden of the Prairie Correctional Facility. He cautioned that even if the short-term offender law is repealed, it could be weeks or months before the Appleton facility sees some of the offenders now being sent to county jails. The Minnesota Department of Corrections is carrying out plans to move its inmates in Appleton to its own facilities, primarily to the newly remodeled and expanded prison in Faribault. Those plans are the cause of concern in Appleton, where the Prairie Correctional Facility is one of the largest employers. A large crowd of people, many of them employees of the facility, voiced their anxieties in February at a town meeting hosted by local legislators. Wengler said the state has been removing its inmates in small numbers based on programming needs for the individuals. The facility currently holds 442 Minnesota inmates, down from 542 earlier this year. The drawdown hasn’t occurred as rapidly as originally feared, he said. Along with inmates from the state of Washington, the Appleton facility currently holds 855 inmates. Staffing levels at the facility are currently at 235, which he described as right where it should be for the current inmate population. The facility has a capacity of 1,600 beds, and the warden would like to see the beds filled and staffing increased again to 353 positions. It is currently working aggressively to market the available beds to other states. It recently sent a contract proposal to one interested party. The facility has been able to manage the loss of Minnesota inmates without cutting jobs. The facility has been able to reduce staffing costs entirely through attrition, Wengler said.

Seattle Bus System
Seattle, Washington
Wackenhut (Group 4)

February 24, 2010 The Oregonian
Sure, there have been some bad muggings at TriMet stops in recent years. But I can't recall one in which the transit police just stood and watched it happen. Up in Seattle, Metro uses a private security firm to patrol its stops downtown. We assume that means that the contacted guards would come to the rescue of riders in trouble at bus platforms. Apparently not. Metro and the security firm are under fire over a video showing three security guards watching on as a group of teens beat and robbed a 15-year-old girl in a downtown bus tunnel last month. The transit agency says the contracted security guards are "only allowed to observe and report problems." Officials say they're changing that policy now. OK. But from what we can see from the above security video, it doesn't appear any of the guards even lifted a cell phone while the girl was being pummeled. In case you're wondering, TriMet's stops are patrolled by transit police, who are obviously armed and authorized to intervene in fights, and Wackenhut security guards. The Wackenhut guards are armed with pepper spray and baton sticks. "They are not only allowed to break up this type of disturbance," said TriMet General Manager Fred Hansen, "they're expected to get involved."

February 11, 2010 KATU News
In a Seattle bus tunnel a 15-year-old girl was viciously attacked while security guards did nothing but call 9-1-1. The incident, in addition to sparking outrage, has many asking whether security guards in Portland are allowed to step in. Disbelief and disgust was the reaction by people who were shown surveillance footage of a girl being repeatedly kicked in the head by another girl while private security guards stood by at arm’s length and did nothing but call 9-1-1. “I know the transit isn’t exactly the same over there (Seattle), but I know it’s still good and that’s, that’s horrible,” said one man after watching the video at a MAX station. “Somebody’s getting hurt, I mean you don’t want them to get hurt, I don’t know, like, do something,” said another man at a MAX station. TriMet and its private security contractor Wackenhut, said if one of their guard’s is near a fight, they won’t just stand back and dial 9-1-1. Wackenhut project manager, Maj. Ellis Bremer, said there’s no question employees can and will get directly involved to stop fights. “We will not stand by,” he said. “We are here to protect the employees and assist the employees of TriMet and in so far as the ridership goes, of course, protect the ridership and inform the ridership.” The state only requires eight hours of classroom work to get a license to be a private security guard, but Wackenhut said it requires its people to go through an initial minimum of 80 hours and then a 16-hour refresher course every year. Most riders said they believe security should mean more than just dialing 9-1-1. Transit officers in Seattle say they are reconsidering the limits put on their private security guards.

Washington Department of Corrections
Jun 4, 2015 seattletimes.com

Overcrowding to force state to export prisoners to Michigan

Inside Washington’s 12 prisons, space is maxed out with every bed occupied, and officials expect the overcrowding to worsen. To ease the problem, Department of Corrections Secretary Bernie Warner signed a contract last month with The Geo Group, a South Florida-based private corporation that runs prisons around the world. Geo Group plans to house up to 1,000 male Washington inmates at its prison in Baldwin, Mich. Under the contract, Geo Group will be paid $60 per day per inmate. The company will cover the cost of transporting inmates to Michigan, Warner said. Warehousing inmates in privately run prisons is nothing new for the DOC. In the mid- to late 2000s, overcrowding forced the prison system to ship inmates out of state. The practice drew complaints from inmates and their loved ones, who said it broke apart families. Warner defends the decision to ship inmates out of state by saying, “What we don’t want to do is have unsafe conditions in our prisons and go down the path of crime.” Added Warner: “We’ve been raising concerns about capacity over the last three or four years.” As of Tuesday, there were 16,752 men and women in Washington state prisons. Warner believes the DOC can operate at its current capacity for 12 to 18 months before having to send offenders to the Michigan. He said DOC forecasters expect to need an additional 1,000 inmate beds by 2025. The state Department of Corrections has signed a contract with a private corrections firm to house up to 1,000 inmates at the North Lake Correctional Facility in Baldwin, Mich. Source: ESRI The state Department of Corrections has signed a contract with a... More Dan Pacholke, DOC’s deputy secretary, said the last time prison officials selected inmates to be sent out of state, they looked for offenders who did not have strong family ties and didn’t have a regular stream of visitors. “You start with volunteers,” Pacholke said. “You try not to not disrupt people with strong family support.” But state Sen. Jeannie Darneille, D-Tacoma, who has long worked closely with DOC on overcrowding issues, said in the past Washington state inmates were selected for out-of-state prison placement based on their “model behavior,” not whether their families would be impacted. “These contractors only want the people who are going to perform well. They take the cream of the crop,” said Darneille, adding that in her view sending inmates out of state is “absolutely bad policy.” “It just breaks morale to solve a short-term problem,” she added. The American Civil Liberties Union of Washington (ACLU) has also long opposed sending inmates out of state, said spokesman Doug Honig. “It separates people from their families, which is very unhelpful for rehabilitating people. It is not good in the long run for public safety since most people are going to get out of prison,” Honig said. The ACLU of Washington is especially concerned that DOC has signed a contract with a company with no extensive local ties. The Geo Group runs the Northwest Detention Center, an Immigration & Customs Enforcement facility in Tacoma that houses detainees. “The group they’re contracting with is a private, for-profit prison company. Their incentive is to make money, which could include cutting corners on services,” Honig said. “It’s hard for the citizenry in Washington to hold them accountable.” We’ve been raising concerns about capacity over the last three or four years.”  The Geo Group made headlines last month after the ACLU of Southern California and other human-rights organizations wrote to federal officials expressing concern about the medical care provided at the company’s Adelanto Detention Facility after two inmates died in a three-year span. According to The Huffington Post, The Geo Group has been faced with hundreds of lawsuits. The online news publication said one former Geo Group employee claimed First Amendment violations to inmates, improper training for staff, and abuse to both inmates and employees. Geo Group declined to comment directly for this story, instead emailing a statement Tuesday saying that it operates its prisons “pursuant to strict contractual requirements and industry-leading standards including those set by the American Correctional Association, and our company strongly refutes allegations to the contrary.” Warner, the DOC secretary, defended the decision to contract with The Geo Group, saying they carefully reviewed prison-service providers. He said they have a very specific contract with Geo Group mandating that inmates have access to work, treatment and educational opportunities. “Our expectation is we have very specific conditions the provider needs to meet. If they fail to meet the contract expectations we will terminate the contract,” Warner said. For several years DOC has been pushing state lawmakers to allocate funds to build another prison. DOC is now asking lawmakers to transform the former Maple Lane School, once a Juvenile Rehabilitation Administration facility near Centralia, into the state’s newest 700-bed prison. If the state Legislature agrees to fund the facility, Warner estimates 2020 will be the earliest the new facility could open. Warner said it would be too costly for the state to add or renovate current prisons. He said reopening McNeil Island Corrections Center, which closed in 2011, would cost at least $50 million. Darniille, the state senator, said the Legislature still has time in the next year or two to pass sentencing reforms to help alleviate prison overcrowding enough to avoid sending offenders out of state. “If we’re passing policy on one side that says we’re going to hit you harder and longer, we’re going to definitely need to have more beds,” she said. “But if we’re implementing other kinds of strategies we can possibly reduce the number of people being put in the position of needing these longer sentences.”

June 29, 2010 Washington DOC
The last group of out-of-state Washington inmates returned today from Arizona. A chartered plane carrying 116 inmates landed in Spokane. The Department of Corrections has gradually brought back inmates housed in other states as the prison population has leveled off in recent years. In September 2007 more than 1,200 inmates were housed in privately operated prisons located in several states, including Arizona, Minnesota and Oklahoma. Having Washington inmates housed in the state has multiple benefits, prison administrators say. “For one thing, all the jobs required to incarcerate Washington inmates are now in our state,” Secretary Eldon Vail said. “There’s also a public safety component. Inmates who receive regular visitations are significantly less likely to commit a new felony and end up back in the prison system.”

September 30, 2008 AP
More than 100 inmates are being transferred back to Washington, after serving time at private prisons in Arizona. The Corrections Department says the return of 110 inmates from Arizona is the largest single-day transfer of out-of-state inmates this year. They were sent to Arizona because of crowding in Washington prisons. But an expansion in the state prison system has freed up some space. Seventy-six of the inmates will be sent to the Washington Corrections Center in Mason County, and 34 will be sent to the Monroe Correctional Complex in Snohomish County. The number of inmates housed outside the state is now 978. Earlier this year, nearly 1,200 Washington inmates were in other states.

June 5, 2005 Seattle Times
Up to 300 Washington inmates soon will fly out on the "chain plane" to rented prison cells across the country in a strategy to ease overcrowding. The inmates are expected to be shipped out to one of the 64 facilities run by the Corrections Corporation of America (CCA), the nation's largest private jailer. The Nashville, Tenn.-based company is already holding 290 Washington inmates and has a mixed track record. Last year, Washington inmates at a CCA-run facility in Colorado started the largest prison riot in that state's history. They were promptly shipped to the company's prison in Appleton, Minn. In May 2003, Washington shipped about 100 inmates to the Nevada state prisons, and added 140 more by that summer. A year later, Washington turned to CCA. The state sent a handful of staff along with the inmates to act as contract monitors. When those staff salaries and travel are included, Washington pays a per-offender rate of $62 per day. A similar group of in-state inmates would cost about $55 per day, according to a DOC budget analysis. The "rented-beds" program has gotten scant attention, even after the riot in Colorado. State Rep. Jeannie Darneille, vice chairwoman of the House corrections committee, said separating parents like Velvett Jones from her son is bad policy, and that the inmates being sent are the best behaved, sending a bad message to those left behind. But her biggest objection is the issue of control. "I just don't have a lot of trust for the privately run prisons," said Darneille, D-Tacoma. "It is done without public knowledge or debate. We give up our control to a privately run institution that sets parameters." Last July 20, just after dinner, dozens of inmates from Washington and Wyoming gathered in the yard of the CCA-run prison in Onley Springs, Colo., demanding to see the warden with a list of grievances. Within a half-hour, the jail was in chaos. In the end, it took hundreds of officers nearly a full day to quell the riot. More than a dozen inmates were injured. Damage was estimated at $1 million. A post-riot investigation by the Colorado Department of Corrections faulted CCA for understaffing and poorly training staff, and for building a prison with materials, such as porcelain sinks, which could be used as weapons. Eight Washington inmates face criminal charges from the riot.

January 17, 2003|
A prison work program that competes with private-sector employers doesn't violate the state Constitution's ban on leasing prisoners to private companies, the Washington Supreme Court ruled yesterday.  The case involves a company called MicroJet, which employs prisoners at the Washington State Reformatory in Monroe.  Prisoners use water-jet cutting equipment to cut metal and stone into precise shapes.  The Washington Water Jet Workers Association, a loose coalition, sued the state. But the court disagreed, 5-4, ruling that the 20th century law that allows private-sector prison work programs bears no resemblance to the 19th century practice of selling involuntary convict labor.  (Seattle Post-Intelligencer)

December 26, 2002
From government's perspective, crime -- especially punishment -- doesn't pay.  It costs. Plenty.  Prison costs have more than doubled in the past decade and now top the billion-dollar mark. Although the crime rate has declined, taxpayers are paying for a decade of tough-on-crime laws and citizen initiatives that have filled the cellblocks with inmates who are serving longer sentences.  The prison population has risen more than 60 percent in the past 10 years, up from about 10,000 inmates. The construction budget piles on another $1.2 billion.  Budget Director Marty Brown said the plan buys the state a little more time for having to build a $250 million, 2,000-bed prison at Connell, north of the Tri-Cities. "We're right on the edge of needing the additional capacity," he said.  The state is even making plans to temporarily ship 700 or more inmates to out-of-state prisons until additional space is available here.  (AP)

Washington Department of Health
Civigenics, Crossroads
May 29, 2009  Spokesman-Review
A social worker and two counselors in the Puget Sound area have been accused of buying fake degrees from a Spokane diploma mill. State health officials said Michael Strub, a licensed social worker, bought a doctor of philosophy in psychology diploma and transcript in March 2004. The materials came from “Hamilton University,” an online diploma mill. Strub worked at Cornerstone Counseling Services in Puyallup, where Washington state Health Department investigators say he used his fake diploma to misrepresent his education and training to clients and insurance companies. David Larson, a registered counselor and chemical dependency professional, is accused of buying a doctor of psychology degree in October 2002 from “St. Regis University.” Larson worked at Crossroads Treatment Centers in Tacoma and Parkland, and then went to Civigenics in Tacoma before retiring in October 2006. Agency and staff had referred to him as “Dr. Larson.” Taylor Danard, a registered counselor, bought a bogus doctor of philosophy in psychology degree from St. Regis in January 2003. She referred to herself as a Ph.D. in her practice at Madison Park Counseling Center in Seattle. Investigators also accuse her of providing health department investigators with false information. The three have 20 days to respond to charges. They are listed on a database published online by The Spokesman-Review last year of people who bought bogus degrees from a Spokane-based operation that netted millions of dollars by selling more than 10,000 college degrees and high school diplomas around the world. The diploma mill was engineered by Dixie Ellen Randock, who has been sentenced to three years in federal prison.

Washington Legislature
CCA
July 21, 2005 The News Tribune
It almost sounds like a bad joke. Unfortunately, it’s at the expense of average Washingtonians.  Back in 2003, state lawmakers decided they wanted to host the 2005 National Conference of State Legislatures in Seattle next month. But they had a problem: They’d have to raise about $1.6 million, and state ethics law restricts their ability to solicit contributions from businesses and people hoping to influence them. But those are the very folks with the fat wallets.  So in 2003, lawmakers stuck an exemption into the ethics law – specifically tailored to allow them to raise money for the conference and not have to report their role in raising it.  The News Tribune’s Ken Vogel reports that pledges have poured in from businesses such as MoneyTree Inc., a payday lender ($25,000); Corrections Corp. of America, a private prison-operating company ($10,000); tobacco manufacturer Philip Morris’ parent company ($50,000); and the International Speedway Corp., the Florida-based company that hopes to build a NASCAR racetrack in Kitsap County ($5,000).  All these companies had issues before the Legislature this past session or will in the next session. An executive with the speedway company, in fact, acknowledged that its pledge could help its chances of winning legislative approval for a public subsidy of its Kitsap County project. Contributors’ lobbyists will get valuable face time during the conference with state legislators at such events as a Mariners game and a party at the Space Needle. The more they contribute, the more access they get – including extra passes to social and business events.  That quid pro quo sounds a whole lot like influence peddling – the very reason the state ethics law was created to prevent.  Average Washingtonians – who might oppose the rates payday lenders charge, private prison operation, laws that favor cigarette manufacturers and subsidizing a NASCAR tack — don’t get the same effect from firing off an e-mail to their state legislators as those contributors get for their big donations.  The conference is projected to have an economic impact of about $17.5 million on the Seattle area. That’s great. What’s troublesome is the bang its big donors expect to get for their bucks.

July 17, 2005 The News Tribune
State lawmakers are well on their way to raising $1.6 million for an upcoming national conference in Seattle, thanks to an exemption they inserted into state ethics law. The exemption, which was approved in 2003 and attracted little attention, allows them to solicit unlimited contributions for the conference from companies and groups hoping to influence the Legislature. In exchange, contributors get to rub elbows with lawmakers during the five-day event next month, which mixes wonky seminars on state government trends with social events, such as a Seattle Mariners game and a party on the Space Needle’s observation deck. During the 2005 legislative session, Corrections Corporation of America, which wanted lawmakers to approve a plan that would put it in the running for a lucrative contract to operate a new private prison, kicked in $10,000. Philip Morris’ parent company, which opposed a cigarette tax increase, contributed $50,000. “It seems a violation of the spirit of the ethics laws,” said Bill Asbury, a founding member of the state’s Legislative Ethics Board. The state Public Disclosure Commission, which oversees gift and campaign contribution reporting, also didn’t take a stand on the exemption. “We had no role. It doesn’t affect our agency. It’s not a campaign finance-kind of issue,” said PDC assistant director Doug Ellis, adding he didn’t think contributions for the conference were intended to influence lawmakers. “I just don’t see it as having a major influence on how people vote,” he said. Mary Boyle, a spokeswoman for the Washington, D.C.-based good-government group Common Cause, disagreed with Ellis. She said companies contribute to the National Conference of State Legislatures meeting for the same reasons they give campaign contributions or to the national political conventions: “In situations where companies are giving thousands of dollars, it is an effort to gain access and influence with lawmakers. Just because you have a big wallet, you shouldn’t be the one to get access to the elected official, when many people can’t afford to do the same thing.”

Whatcom County Jail
Bellingham, Washington
Security Specialists Plus

December 20, 2007 The Bellingham Herald
Officials say the recent closure of a privately run minimum-security jail facility will have little financial impact on taxpayers but it could make the county's crowded jails even more cramped. Whatcom County Sheriff Bill Elfo relocated 47 inmates from the Security Specialists Plus (SSP) facility on Baker Creek Place in early November after allegations of sexual contact between an employee and inmate. Elfo suggested that the county not renew its approximately $500,000 annual contract with SSP, whose employees have been cited in the past for misconduct, including smuggling contraband and stealing from prisoners. Elfo and county Jail Chief Wendy Jones said the county's interim jail had enough room to absorb the new inmates, since bookings naturally tend to dip this time of year as judges are more lenient and more police officers are on vacation during the holidays. But both acknowledge that closing the facility could worsen the jail-crowding problems that have plagued the county. "We knew as the population continued to grow, we were going to have to look at additional space," Jones said. "This just moved that timetable forward." Elfo said he was exploring several options to deal with the problem until a new jail facility is finished in about 2014. Jones said the county already pays a fixed amount to run the interim jail. So the county can now keep the approximately $35 per inmate per day that was paid to SSP to house inmates. The woman whose actions caused the ruckus, Tammra J. Baechler, 35, of Sumas, pleaded guilty to custodial misconduct Nov. 29 and was given an 18-month deferred sentence and required to perform community service, according to court records. Baechler had been having consensual sexual contact with a 38-year-old female inmate from Ferndale. SSP owner Greg Rustand said word of the county's action concerning his company was "like getting kicked in the stomach." He said his company had worked to improve its facility and hiring practices after previous incidents.

November 7, 2007 Bellingham Herald
Whatcom County Sheriff Bill Elfo has ordered 47 inmates removed from a privately run minimum security jail after allegations of sexual contact between a jailer and inmate. Elfo is suggesting that the county not renew its $500,000 yearly contract with Security Specialists Plus to house inmates after the arrest of Tammra J. Baechler, 35, of Everson. An investigation by Elfo’s office alleges that Baechler had consensual sexual contact with a 38-year-old Ferndale woman who was serving time at SSP’s Baker Creek Place facility on a domestic violence-related crime. Elfo said the contact lasted for two weeks beginning Oct. 23 and consisted of kissing, fondling body parts and passing notes of a sexual nature. Baechler, who had been working for SSP since August, was arrested Wednesday on suspicion of custodial misconduct and booked into Whatcom County Jail. Elfo said the alleged sexual contact was the “latest in a series of events” that have raised questions about allowing SSP employees or any other private contractor to supervise county inmates. “I can’t in good conscience allow inmates to be under (SSP) supervision,” Elfo said. The county has paid SSP to house approximately 50 minimum security prisoners for the last 14 years. The company’s yearly contract is up for renewal in December, Elfo said. SSP owner Greg Rustand said he had not heard of the allegations and was disappointed by Elfo’s reprimand. Rustand pointed out that a male county jail employee was charged with custodial sexual misconduct in March for allegedly fondling a female inmate. “If you go to any business, they’re going to have employee problems,” Rustand said. “For them to go ahead and say, ‘Gee whiz, they’re a private company, they’re bad’ … I’m shocked.” Rustand said his company has saved county taxpayers millions of dollars over the years, because it can house inmates much more cheaply than the county can. This is not the first time SSP has come under scrutiny for employee misconduct. In March 2006, an SSP employee admitted to stealing money from an inmate’s personal locker. In August 2006, an SSP guard pleaded guilty to smuggling tobacco and marijuana into the facility for inmates. After those incidents, SSP conducted an internal investigation. Among the recommendations was better screening of applicants for guard positions. Rustand said his company has done everything possible to screen new employees, including extensive background checks and requiring employees to be licensed security personnel through the state. Elfo said Wednesday’s arrest was the final straw against SSP, whose employees are not subject to the same level of preemployment scrutiny as county jailers. State law allows the county to do a polygraph test on potential employees, while private contractors cannot. SSP also lost its $378,000 annual animal control contract with the county this year after Elfo’s office seized 41 llamas from a field on Olson Road in Ferndale. Neighbors told officials they had been calling SSP for years about animal neglect on the property. Rustand questioned whether the county’s response to the jail allegations stemmed from the llama incident and individuals playing politics. “(After the llama incident) we heard through the grapevines that it was about getting rid of the Rustands,” he said. “Since then it’s been somebody’s goal to go ahead and do that.” Elfo said the county has several options for housing inmates taken out of the private facility. Because a majority of SSP inmates are jailed for misdemeanors or minor felony convictions and require the lowest level of supervision, many will be moved to similar work release programs in the countyrun interim jail. Booking inmates into the main jail, using electronic home monitoring or asking courts to release inmates who have served more than two-thirds of their sentence with good behavior are also options, Elfo said. County Executive Pete Kremen said the allegations concerned him. “I certainly take very seriously the recommendations from the sheriff and I highly respect his opinion,” Kremen said. “I certainly will work with him on the issue.” Kremen said the county may consider purchasing or renting SSP’s facility if it does not renew the contract.