As I suggested earlier, private prisons are bad public policy. This stuff about the GEO group, which is NOT the private prison outfit that was bribing the judges I wrote about earlier (See Raygun Style Free Market Justice), is symptomatic of the kind of bad public policy that the Raygunners have been selling.
I got curious enough from reading Brady’s post about Kenneth Keith Kallenbach to Google up the GEO people, and was surprised at the lack of press coverage I found. Most of what we know about them comes from Bloggers. (I am not surprised. Shows about prisons and how tough they are and how cool it is to be a hard ass are the staple of cable television. Why would any one want to raise issues about how they are managed?)
Geo Group is happy to brag on itself and is traded on the stock exchange. It operates 49 prisons in the USA, and five “care” facilities, all of them in Florida. It had one facility in Australia (although one blog seems to say that they got fired by the Aussies), one in South Africa and one in the UK. A former Speaker of the Pennsylvania House (a GOPer, of course) is on their Board of Directors.
There is a guy in Texas who covers prison issues generally, and wrote a piece on Geo Group that is pretty interesting: gritsforbreakfast.blogspot.com/2007/07/meet-geo-group-texas-largest-private_5605.html
Wikipedia has a note. Here is what they say:
Since 2005, at least eight people have died at the Geo Group-operated George W. Hill Correctional Facility in Pennsylvania, the state’s only privately run jail. Several of those deaths resulted in lawsuits by family members who say the facility did not provide adequate medical care or proper supervision for inmates.
Kenneth Keith Kallenback Incident
On April 25th, 2008, Kenneth Keith Kallenbach died. He suffered from cystic fibrosis, an inherited chronic disease and was denied his medication. He had been housed at the jail since mid-March and was dead a month later.
Kallenbach’s mother, Fay, said her son called her a week before his death, asking her to intervene and help him receive better treatment. He said he didn’t think he would “make it” out of the jail alive, she said.
The prison had no comment on Kallenbach’s death. At the same facility last year, a woman who suffered from a thyroid condition died at the jail where she had been held for six weeks. Family members said she did not receive her medication during her incarceration.
“There is an awful lot of deliberate indifference to the medical needs” in the prison, said Harold I. Goodman, a lawyer currently suing the company that operates the jail on behalf of the woman’s family.
GEO did not comment on this case.
In 2005, five inmates died within a five-month span, drawing scrutiny from Delaware County District Attorney Michael Green. Two men apparently committed suicide, one died after a fist fight, another died of a heroin overdose, and another man was found dead in his bed.
No criminal charges were filed, but GEO Group has settled lawsuits with several families who sued on behalf of their relatives. In 2006, GEO paid $100,000 to the family of Rosalyn Atkinson, 25, who died in 2002 because of a fatal overdose of a high-blood pressure drug administered by jail medical staff. Atkinson had been at the jail for only 18 days.
GEO also agreed in 2005 to pay $125,000 to the family of John Focht, 43, who used his boot strings to hang himself in 2002.
GEO, based in Florida, also has been under fire in Texas, where it operates more than a dozen correctional facilities.
Last fall, the Texas Youth Commission abruptly canceled its $8 million contract with GEO after investigators found unsanitary living conditions at its juvenile facility. Several of the teens said they were sexually assaulted by a guard who was a convicted sex offender, according to lawsuits.
GEO lost its contract at an adult facility in west Texas last year after an inspector reportedly characterized the prison as “the worst correctional facility I have ever visited.” The inspection was sparked by an inmate’s suicide.
Texas legislators have called for a review of all of GEO’s contracts with state and local agencies.”
Finally, there is a web site focused on the private prison issue. Here it is: http://www.privateci.org