Sunday, November 30, 2008

Private prison abuse: Hold GEO accountable

Private prison problems have long, troubled history

By Bob Libal

As the indictment hearings continue in Willacy County this week, one thing should be clear: private prison corporations, especially the indicted GEO Group, have a long history of scandal and abuse in Texas.

Earlier this year, Idaho pulled its prisoners from Texas's GEO facilities after the suicide of Randall McCullough, a prisoner held in solitary confinement for over a year. This was the second tragic death of an Idaho inmate in Texas' private prisons. In 2007, the suicide of Scott Noble Payne led to an Associated Press expose revealing the facility's "squalid" conditions. The Idaho Department of Corrections health director deemed the prison the worst he'd ever seen.

Last fall, the Texas Youth Commission shuttered GEO's Coke County Juvenile Justice Center after learning that conditions in the youth facility included feces covering blankets and walls, that the jail's educational and health programs were severely lacking, and that safety standards were not being upheld.

Then there's the case that led to the current indictments. A Willacy jury returned a verdict in favor of the family of Gregorio De La Rosa, who was beaten to death by other inmates in the Willacy County Jail, against Wackenhut Corrections Corporation (now Geo Group) for $47.5 Million. The GEO Group was found to have destroyed key evidence in the case, including the destruction of tapes showing the beating and a murder weapon.

Unfortunately, the list goes on and on. It's time that companies like the GEO Group are held accountable for their actions.

Bob Libal is Texas Campaign Coordinator for Grassroots Leadership in Austin, Texas. He contributes to, a website covering the private prison industry.

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Censored News is published by censored journalist Brenda Norrell. A journalist for 27 years, Brenda lived on the Navajo Nation for 18 years, writing for Navajo Times, AP, USA Today, Lakota Times and other American Indian publications. After being censored and then terminated by Indian Country Today in 2006, she began the Censored Blog to document the most censored issues. She currently serves as human rights editor for the U.N. OBSERVER & International Report at the Hague and contributor to Sri Lanka Guardian, Narco News and CounterPunch. She was cohost of the 5-month Longest Walk Talk Radio across America, with Earthcycles Producer Govinda Dalton in 2008:
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