I don't normally pay much attention to prison stories but this one seemed absurd. The GEO group, which is a business that operates prisons and is based in Florida, operates the Dickens and Val Verde prisons in Texas. In fact, they did such a poor job of operating Dickens that the prisoners are being transferred out. What was it like?
The shift comes amid reports of abusive guards and terrible sanitation at Dickens, where a prisoner killed himself March 4.
In letters to loved ones, Scot Noble Payne described a constantly wet floor, bloodstained sheets and smelly towels at the jail where he was serving time for molesting a child. He slit his throat in his cell.
Documents obtained by The Associated Press show Idaho did little monitoring of out-of-state inmates, despite repeated complaints from prisoners, their families and a prison inspector.
At the Val Verde jail near the Mexican border, inmate LeTisha Tapia killed herself after alleging she was raped by another inmate and sexually humiliated by a guard. A black guard accused his captain of keeping a hangman's noose in his office and a photo of himself in a Ku Klux Klan hood in his desk.
GEO settled lawsuits in both cases, though the terms were not disclosed.
That's bad enough, eh? But it didn't bother the Idaho Department of Corrections, because they want to send MORE inmates down to Texas.
Even as they contend with criticisms of the way Idaho inmates were treated at a privately run Texas prison, state officials are sending more inmates to another troubled facility run by the same company.
State officials including Gov. C.L. "Butch" Otter on Tuesday approved sending 40 inmates to the Val Verde Correctional Facility and Jail in Del Rio, Texas, as they try to ease prison overcrowding in their own state....
"The county feels that the jail monitor is necessary," Ann Markowski Smith said in an interview. She added that concerns remain about the GEO-run prison, including whether inmates are properly receiving medication meant to treat mental health conditions.
GEO Group spokesman Pablo Paez said the company was working with Idaho to meet its prison needs. He declined to comment on Tapia's and the guard's cases.
After the state complained, GEO reassigned the warden at Dickens, who told the AP he was later fired. Both he and the former director of the Idaho prison system said they didn't have enough money to make necessary improvements.
The state's contract with GEO is worth about $8 million annually.
Can you imagine? This is one of the ILL effects of outsourcing government functions like prisons... and shame on Idaho for knowingly sending more prisoners down to a sub-standard place.
Here's more from a related article, showing once Idaho dumps the prisoners somewhere else, what do THEY care how the prisoners are treated.
After months alone in his cell, Scot Noble Payne finished 20 pages of letters, describing to loved ones the decrepit conditions of the prison where he was serving time for molesting a child.
Payne then used a razor blade to slice two 3-inch gashes in his throat. Guards found his body in the cell's shower, with the water still running.
"Try to comfort my mum too and try to get her to see that I am truly happy again," he wrote his uncle. "I tell you, it sure beats having water on the floor 24/7, a smelly pillow case, sheets with blood stains on them and a stinky towel that hasn't been changed since they caught me."
Payne's suicide March 4 came seven months after he was sent to the squalid, privately run Texas prison by Idaho authorities trying to ease inmate overcrowding in their own state. His death exposed what had been Idaho's standard practice for dealing with inmates sent to out-of-state prisons: Out of sight, out of mind.
It also raised questions about a company hired to operate prisons in 15 states, despite reports of abusive guards and terrible sanitation.
Hundreds of pages of documents obtained by The Associated Press through an open-records request show Idaho did little monitoring of out-of-state inmates, despite repeated complaints from prisoners, their families and a prison inspector.