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Cambridge jail closes; chaos predicted

Muddle, confusion mar reorganization, guards' union says

KITCHENER - Everyone is saying "good riddance'' to a dilapidated 49-year-old jail closing in Cambridge today while also warning of upheaval and chaos in the Ontario prison system. On the eve of the final "decommissioning'' of the Waterloo Detention Centre in Cambridge, one of the many Ontario jails being closed as prisoners are centralized into bigger jails in other cities, the government was still scrambling to sort out its transfers of prisoners and staff members.

Meanwhile, in Guelph, the Wellington Detention Centre was also scheduled to close today but that's now been delayed until July 13 to provide for a "smoother transition,'' according to Julie Rosenberg, a spokeswoman for the Ontario Correctional Services Ministry.

Most prisoners in the two detention centres have now been transferred to the expanded 1,500-bed Maplehurst Correctional Centre in Milton.

But as of late this week, there were still staff members in both Cambridge and Guelph who had no idea where they'll be working if they want to be reassigned to other provincial jails in coming months.

Douglas McArthur, a union representative for workers at the Cambridge facility, said under the union contract, the government was supposed to give workers a minimum of 90 days notice of job losses, and that didn't happen, so the union grieved that and won the grievance.

The impact is ongoing day-to-day uncertainty for workers who haven't yet received "surplus notices'' to indicate if they want the severance package or to relocate for jobs elsewhere.

In the midst of ongoing confusion, McArthur said the final shut-down of the Cambridge facility on Hespeler Road evokes "a mixture of emotions.''

It started in 1952 as a maximum security unit for girls known as Churchill House, then part of the Grandview Girls School detention facility. In the 1970s, when Grandview closed down, the building was converted and re-opened as a jail for men.

But McArthur said most Cambridge residents probably didn't even realize they still had a jail in their community, and won't care that it's closed.

The staff members feel sad about leaving the people they've been working with for years, and are upset about having to relocate to other jobs because they have spouses and children affected by the upheaval.

But the closure has been hanging over their heads for four years. On some level, they'll be relieved to move on, McArthur said.

McArthur said the building in Cambridge is also in such a bad state of repair "it's beyond the limit now,'' and should be closed for health and safety reasons.

But he said it would have been wiser for the government to build a new facility in a place more central to this heavily-populated part of Ontario.

In Guelph, the staff confusion was more extreme as today's supposedly firm closure date was extended for yet another week.

"As you can imagine, it's a big mess,'' said Lanny Clive, who represents workers at the Wellington Detention Centre in Guelph.

He said he blames both the government and his own union, the Ontario Public Service Workers' Employees Union, for the state of confusion.

After it closes down as a regular jail, the building in Guelph will be reopened in the fall, for at least another year, to house a special unit for the treatment of 78 inmates with substance abuse or mental health problems.

About 50 people will continue to work there until another facility, in Brockville, is ready to house the special unit in the winter of 2002.

Meanwhile, the much larger Guelph Correctional Centre, which currently houses the special treatment unit, is slated for closure in the fall. Prisoners there will go to a new "super jail'' in Penetanguishene.

But Clive remains skeptical the government's plans for fewer, giant jails will hold together. He said big problems are already evident.

"Last Friday, we sent 10 inmates to Maplehurst and when they got there, they refused to take them and they sent 11 inmates back to us because they were overcrowded. So we don't know who is coming or going,'' Clive said.

Both Clive and McArthur warned the government's "super jail'' plans are a disaster in the making.

They said it'll result in more riots and potential death or injury to guards in huge, understaffed jails.

They also said the costs and dangers of having to transport prisoners longer distances across the province for court appearances will quickly outweigh any savings the government is banking on.

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Private prison closing weeks earlier than originally planned

The Associated Press - July 9, 2001

YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio: Ohio's only privately owned, privately operated prison, originally scheduled to close in August, will close several weeks earlier as the final inmates are moved elsewhere.

Within two weeks, the remaining 101 inmates at the 2,016-bed Northeast Ohio Correctional Center will be moved out and prison operations will be suspended.

For security reasons, Warden Brian Gardner would not release specific details about the timing of the shutdown.

Gardner said that the inmates, all from the Washington, D.C., Department of Corrections, will be turned over to the custody of the Federal Bureau of Prisons.

After the inmates leave, most employees will be laid off or transferred to another facility of the Corrections Corp. of America, which operates NOCC and 64 other facilities, Gardner said. All employees have been offered jobs at other CCA facilities, the warden said.

CCA has said it will reopen the prison if it wins a new contract to house inmates.

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Georgia: more privateer corruption

The Associated Press - July 10, 2001
State official admits to receiving money from government contractors

ATLANTA: A state official admitted to receiving more than $200,000 from two government contractors who do business in the criminal justice arena.

Bobby Whitworth, a member of Georgia's Board of Pardons and Paroles, told WSB-TV on Monday he was within the law when he was hired as a consultant by Detention Management Services and the Bobby Ross Group.

"In no way have I violated my oath of office," Whitworth told the station. "In no way have I broken the law."

The board of Pardons and Paroles decides when to release certain offenders from confinement after they have served part of a prison sentence.

According to the state attorney general's office, a state law allows parole board members to do outside work as long as it does not conflict with their official duties.

Over the course of four years, Whitworth, a former state corrections commissioner, received $75,000 from DMS and more than $100,000 from the Bobby Ross Group.

DMS did private probation supervision for cities and counties before it was bought out last year. Whitworth said the company did no state business, but he acknowledged lobbying as a board member for a law that might have created more work for companies like DMS. He said it was a good bill for parole.

The Bobby Ross Group operates three juvenile facilities in Georgia. The mission of the company is changing to a parole revocation center. Whitworth has since resigned as consultant.

Walter Ray, the chair of the state board of Pardons and Paroles, acknowledged on WSB-TV Tuesday that he too, received money from government contractors. He said it was legal and that he has done nothing wrong.

However, Jeff Davis, executive director of Georgia Common Cause, said he has a problem with it.

"When public officials accept money from private companies and then use their political power to lobby for action or legislation that ends up benefitting those companies - that raises the appearance of propriety," Davis said.

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Wackenhut to quit Delaware County jail

July 12, 2001

Pennsylvannia: Wackenhut Corrections Corp. said it plans to stop operating a prison in Thornton, Pa., because it couldn't agree with Delaware County authorities on payment for the addition of out-of-county prisoners.

The Palm Beach Gardens-based prison operator said it has given a 120-day notice to the Delaware County Board of Prison Inspectors to discontinue operation of the George W. Hill Correctional Facility.

George C. Zoley, chief executive officer of Wackenhut Corrections, said the company couldn't agree with the county on terms for taking on additional out-of-county prisoners. The company wanted higher payments because it expects those prisoners to generate higher medical and litigation costs.

Wackenhut said it built the new prison in time and under budget, saving Delaware County $ 30 million.

"The Delaware County prison has been a financially under-performing contract for some time," Zoley said. "The discontinuance of this contract eliminates the negative impact that higher than anticipated inmate medical and litigation costs have had on our earnings over time."

The company said it doesn't expect the discontinuation to have an impact on expected earnings for 2001.

In its last quarterly report filed in May, the company said it was implementing a strategy to battle rising insurance costs.

Delaware County awarded Wackenhut a contract in 1995 to operate an older, 1,000-bed county prison. In 1998 the company was awarded the contract to design, build and operate the new 1,538-bed prison.

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Prison reform rally planned for Saturday

New Mexico: July 10, 2001

Critics of the state prison system, along with opponents of the war on drugs, are planning to rally at the state Capitol and march to Santa Fe's Plaza this weekend.

The second annual Prison Reform Unity Day Rally will convene on the east side of the Capitol at 2:30 p.m. Saturday.

Tilda Sosaya, a leader of an Albuquerque-based inmate-rights organization called the Committee On Prison Accountability, said Monday that the main focus of the event will be to call attention to prison conditions -- both state and national.

"New Mexico houses almost 6,000 inmates and almost 12,000 are currently on probation or parole in our state," said a written statement from COPA. "Almost 100,000 family members in our state are directly affected by management and policies of our corrections department.

"In New Mexico, we have seen first hand the ill effects of the failed private prisons -- Wackenhut, CCA and Cornell, giant global corporations -- on our local communities from Hobbs and Estancia, Santa Rosa, Santa Fe, to Grants and Milan, N.M.," the COPA statement said.

After the march to the Plaza, which is scheduled for about 5 p.m. Saturday, participants will drive to the main gates of the state prison complex and "hold a short vigil to commemorate and remember that many have suffered and died behind the walls," the statement said.

Sosaya said more than 150 people showed up for the event last year.

While COPA is very critical of Gov. Gary Johnson's corrections policies, Santa Fe activist and photographer Lisa Law has been publicizing the rally as an event to show support for the governor's stance on reforming drug laws.

"I want to get a wide variety of people here Saturday to show support for Gov. Johnson's position (against the war on drugs)," Law said. "The governor has given us license to publicly discuss this issue."

Sosaya said that the war on drugs is not a major focus of COPA, though she said the issues of prison reform and drug-law reform are related because such a high percentage of inmates are in prison for drug-related offenses.

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CAPP gets tired of reporting only bad news - we discovered a story with a happy ending so we squeezed it in below:

One Goofy Duck

The Vancouver Sun - July 2001
VANCOUVER - A female duck accosted and pestered a civilian member of the Vancouver police until he helped rescue her eight ducklings trapped in a storm sewer.

Ray Petersen was walking under the Granville Bridge on Wednesday morning when the duck came up and grabbed him by the pant leg. Then it started waddling around him, quacking.

"I thought it was a bit goofy, so I shoved it away," Mr. Petersen said yesterday.

But the duck -- he thinks it was a mallard -- was not about to give up that easily. Making sure she still had Mr. Petersen's eye, she waddled up the road about 20 metres and lay on a storm sewer grate.

Mr. Petersen watched and thought nothing of it.

"But when I started walking again, she did the same thing. She ran around and grabbed me again."

So when she waddled off to the sewer grate a second time, Mr. Petersen decided to follow.

"I went up to where the duck was lying and saw eight little babies in the water below. They had fallen down between the grates."

Mr. Petersen phoned Sergeant Randy Kellens, who arrived at the scene and who, in turn, got in touch with two more constables.

"When they came down, the duck ran around them as well, quacking," Mr. Petersen said. "Then she lay down on the grate."

While Sgt. Kellens looked into the grate, the duck sat on the curb and watched.

Then the two constables marshalled a tow truck that lifted the grate out of position, allowing the eight ducklings to be picked up, one by one, with a vegetable strainer.

"While we were doing this, the mother duck just lay there and watched," Mr. Petersen said.

Once they were safe, however, she marched down to False Creek, where they jumped into the water.

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Jail sees turnover of 72% since '99

Tulsa, Oklahoma:
July 15, 2001

Nearly three out of four original employees at the Tulsa Jail no longer work at the facility that Corrections Corporation of America began operating less than two years ago.

CCA reported a 72 percent turnover in staff between August 1999 and June 2001. That means that of the 329 people who went to work for CCA, 237 have departed while 92 have remained on staff.

Of the 150 people listed by CCA as transferring from the Sheriff's Office, county records show that 60 are still employed, which translates to a 60 percent departure rate.

Of the 220 people employed as correctional officers in August 1999, 51 have remained in that position or been promoted, while 169 no longer work at the jail, a 76.81 percent turnover, according to a Tulsa World database comparison.

The facility is also on its third warden since it opened.

But CCA officials both here and at corporate headquarters in Nashville are not expressing alarm over the staff turnover figures. It is common for new facilities such as Tulsa's to have a higher turnover rate during the first three years, said Steve Owen, CCA's director of communications in Nashville.

According to Owen, there is a higher concentration of new staff when a facility opens, and the corrections field is simply not one that everyone will like.

"There are some growing pains. The facility is going to have turnover until a routine is set in place," Owen said. "That's just the reality of the correctional profession, and that's true for public and private facilities. We're also dealing with a competitive job market out there."

Local CCA spokesman Marvin Branham said the turnover rate is fairly normal for the "high-stress" corrections profession and that it was also due largely to a change from a "linear" to a "direct-supervision" jail.

The Tulsa Jail is designed so that detention officers work among inmates.

In linear facilities, such as the county's old jail, guards are separated from inmates by bars. Many of the sheriff's employees who went to work for CCA worked under the latter type of supervision at the old jail.

Tulsa County Sheriff Stanley Glanz, who lost authority over the jail when the Tulsa County Criminal Justice Authority decided to privatize, said his former employees should have liked working in a brand-new, state-of-the-art facility after working in the federally condemned jail on the eighth and ninth floors of the county courthouse.

The transition should have been smooth with the right training, Glanz maintains.

"In all reality, the officers I've talked to really like moving from an old facility into a new one with all the amenities, and that's every direct supervision jail I've ever been in," he said.

Authority members have long said the high turnover was due to the new direct supervision philosophy and that they weren't surprised when former sheriff's employees left.

CCA was required to hire the sheriff's detention officers when it won a three-year operating contract. The Tennessee-based company promised to run the new 1,400-bed jail for $2 million less per year than Glanz had done.

But jail authority Chairman John Selph said he also thought that forced overtime hours and the demands Warden Jim Cooke makes on his employees are playing a big part in the recent turnover.

"I've heard a lot of complaints from employees over there about being forced to work overtime when they needed to be off and be with their family. I think that has put a lot of those employees under an extraordinary amount of stress and they have chosen to work elsewhere, and I understand that," Selph said. "Once or twice, that might be OK, but if it happens repeatedly, a person's not going to stick around. They're going to find other employment in this economy, and I think that's what's happened in a number of different cases."

Corrections officers start at a salary of $9.52 an hour or $19,801.60 a year, and working overtime is a reality that Cooke says new employees are made aware of before working.

"It sounds high, but is it high? I don't know," said authority member Bob Dick of the turnover. "To my knowledge, they're able to staff the positions, and that's the most important part."

The company reported a 34 percent turnover rate between November 2000 and June 2001.

Cooke, who came on board as warden in January, said he thought the turnover was too high but downplayed its significance. He said that employees who are workers will love him and those who aren't won't.

"I can tell you looking eyeball-to-eyeball, You don't do your job, you're not going to be working for me,' " Cooke said.

Cooke said staffing is higher than it has ever been. Yet records show that there were 36 overall vacancies at the facility in June 2001, compared to 20 in November 2000.

There have always been vacancies for corrections officers: 22 in August 1999, nine in November and 23 in June. CCA counts employees still in training and not able to actually work in the facility as staffed positions, a method that county officials say keeps the company within contractual guidelines with the jail authority. Branham said there are typically 20 to 23 people in training.

Until the jail is fully staffed, Cooke said he has condensed the five-week training period to 31/2 weeks in order to get people to work sooner. The company emphasized that the trainees are still in class the same number of hours.

George Camp of the Criminal Justice Institute said the 1999 average turnover rate for public jails similar in size to Tulsa's was 12.8 percent.

A sampling of private adult jails and detention facilities of various sizes had individual turnover rates ranging from 25 to 81 percent, Camp said.

The Oklahoma County Sheriff's Office, which has indirect supervision within housing pods at the Oklahoma County Jail, reported a 47 percent turnover last year among clerical and detention officers.

The Collin County Sheriff's Office in McKinney, Texas, reported a 20 percent turnover rate for 1998, 22 percent for 1999, and 27 percent for 2000. The jail authority based the operation and design of Tulsa's new jail on Collin County.

Lt. John Norton said Collin County didn't track employee turnover in the first years after the new detention facility was built and the switch was made to direct supervision in 1994.

In the last years of operating the old jail, the Tulsa County Sheriff's Office reported a 24 percent turnover in 1997, 31 percent in 1998 and 33 percent from January to August 1999.

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County to take over privatized Delaware County prison

The Associated Press - July 19, 2001

GLEN MILLS, Pa. - Delaware County authorities will take over at least some operations of the county prison once the private firm running the facility leaves in the fall.

The prison board voted 5-0 in favor of a resolution Wednesday not to seek a third-party contractor to replace Wackenhut Corrections Corp. of Palm Gardens, Fla.

"I do not see the need," said Delaware County Treasurer John A. Dowd, who proposed the resolution.

The 1,584-bed George W. Hill Correctional Facility is the only county prison in Pennsylvania operated by a private firm.

Prison board solicitor Robert M. DiOrio said Wackenhut could be replaced by a mix of public employees and private entities. The board is sure to look at contracting out medical and food services, which were subcontracted even before Wackenhut's arrival in 1996, he said.

The company invoked an escape clause in its contract with the prison board last week and will cede operations Nov. 11. Company officials said Wackenhut was not making enough money to justify continuing the arrangment.

DiOrio said the prison board had not talked about plans with the prison guard's union, which in 1998 lost a battle against the privatization of members' jobs.

The announcement drew praise from the state's oldest prison reform group.

"We believe that the public and society are better served when government is responsible for this type of activity because it involves liberty," said William M. DiMascio, executive director of the Pennsylvania Prison Society.

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Former jail guard charged

The Associated Press - July 18, 2001
Santa Fe New Mexico:

A former Santa Fe County jail guard has been arrested on charges of having sex with a female inmate on numerous occasions while he worked at the jail.

Marcos Cordova, 39, of Santa Fe was arrested Tuesday on a warrant issued after he was indicted on five counts of criminal sexual penetration. The indictment released Monday alleges the incidents took place in December and February.

The inmate allegedly had consensual sex with Cordova in a storage closet at the jail, run by the private Cornell Companies of Houston, said Santa Fe County sheriff's Maj. Ron Madrid.

Such a relationship between a guard and an inmate is illegal, District Attorney Henry Valdez said.

Guards in New Mexico are prohibited from having sex with inmates since guards have authority over the inmates.

Cordova was fired, Madrid said.

Two jail guards, who were not publicly identified, were fired about two weeks after a March incident in the jail in which male guards allegedly let female and male inmates mingle in the same cell. That also is against state law. Another guard was placed in unpaid leave.

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Top two prison officials fired in wake of uprising

The Associated Press - July 18, 2001
Wheelwright, Kentucky:

The warden and his top assistant were fired at a privately operated prison where inmates rioted two weeks ago.

William Wolford was fired last week as warden at Otter Creek Correctional Complex in Floyd County because of policy violations, said Steve Owen, a spokesman for Corrections Corp. of America.

Wolford's top assistant, David Carroll, was fired a couple of days later for the same reasons, Owen said.

Randy Stovall, warden at the company's prison in Brownfield, Texas, has transferred to take over the eastern Kentucky prison.

"Warden Stovall is getting up to speed so he can decide what changes, if any, he needs to make to accommodate for his management style," Owen said.

The changes came after a meeting among Indiana corrections officials and prison company officials to investigate the nine-hour riot, which ended on July 6.

Hundreds of medium-security inmates from Indiana detained in the remote mountain prison tossed commodes, televisions and sinks out windows and burned clothes, bedding and mattresses before surrendering.

No one was seriously injured, but officials reported extensive damage. No damage estimate is available yet, Owen said.

Pam Pattison, a spokeswoman for the Indiana Department of Corrections, said the cause of the riot is still under investigation. She said three inmates identified as prompting the disturbance have been transferred to an Indiana prison in Wabash.

"They're in segregation awaiting a disciplinary hearing," Pattison said. "If they are found guilty, sanctions will be imposed."

The riot started during the evening of July 5 with a disturbance in a recreation area and then escalated, spreading to four dormitories, she said. About 75 Kentucky State Police troopers and 15 Floyd County deputies surrounded the prison to prevent escapes.

Floyd County Sheriff John K. Blackburn estimated that up to 400 of the prison's 589 inmates participated in the riot.

Otter Creek is one of three private prisons in Kentucky that Corrections Corp. of America of Nashville, Tenn., bought in 1998 from U.S. Corrections Corp. of Louisville. It opened in 1993 as a minimum-security facility for Kentucky inmates, but began taking medium-security prisoners from Indiana in January 2000.

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Inmate Strike Freezes Maryland Facility

Jessup, MD - 7/25/2001 - Baltimore Sun

In the second day of an inmate strike at the Maryland House of Correction, tensions escalated yesterday as nearly all of the 1,228 prisoners refused to come out of their cells, virtually shutting down the maximum-security lockup in Jessup.

Inmates are protesting the state's new smoking ban, which went into effect July 2, and other long-standing conditions at the prison, including the lack of educational and training programs, authorities said.

Division of Correction officials emerged from an hours-long meeting with inmates late yesterday afternoon with the hope "that the House of Correction will return to normal operations shortly," said DOC spokesman David B. Towers.

The striking inmates stopped doing their jobs, which include mopping the prison's floors, preparing meals and making license plates and mattresses.

They refused recreation activities and meals and instead sat quietly in their cells.

The eerie silence on the prison tiers concerned staff, who described it as the quiet before a storm.

Correctional officers had worried about the possibility of trouble when the smoking ban was imposed. Many officers said they fear violence is next.

"We said it was going happen. I'm worried about the officers' safety because they're the ones that have to keep violence down," said M. Kim Howard, president of the Maryland Correctional Law Enforcement Union, which represents some of the state's 8,000 correctional officers.

The smoking ban applies to all 25 prisons in the state, but DOC officials say the problem at the House of Correction is isolated. They have not reported any other inmate disturbances stemming from the ban.

Officials said they didn't plan to call for extra staff or enforcement from the state police or National Guard, in part because inmates were not violent.

Correctional officers speculated that inmates hadn't lashed out against staff because officers are under the smoking ban as well. But staff was on guard, their union officials said.

"If this strike continues, there could be violence," Howard said, echoing the concerns of others. "Like I said before, when you eliminate things, it creates a potential for problems."

Before the ban, prisoners had been able to smoke outside the housing units during recreation periods and on the way to and from dining halls and job sites.

Not enough

Union officials criticized DOC administrators for not providing nicotine supplements to help quitting inmates adjust.

Officers predicted that the prison's smoking cessation classes and passing out lollipops weren't going to be enough.

Howard said that because smoking is a way for inmates to relieve stress, other problems at the prison would be more likely to aggravate them.

But DOC officials said the ban was in line with the nonsmoking policies at most state prisons and was designed to promote health and safety.

The protest at the prison began Monday morning when a small number of inmates refused to leave their cells.

At lunch, almost half of the inmates refused to leave their cells, and by yesterday morning "hardly anyone" left their cells, Towers said. Staff brought bag lunches to the cells for all three meals yesterday and for dinner and lunch Monday.

No visitors were allowed into the prison Monday. There were no visitation hours regularly scheduled for yesterday, Towers said.

No lock down

However, administrators had not "locked down" the prison - a security measure that forces inmates to stay in their cells.

"Those who want to go to school or their jobs are being allowed to go," said Towers.

They just aren't going.

Woodshop, license plate and mattress factories at the House of Correction are staffed by inmates.

Initially, House of Correction inmates refused to talk to administrators. But 11 inmates agreed yesterday to meet with acting Warden James Peguese and several other administrators to outline their grievances, which included poor food, a lack of educational and therapeutic programs for inmates and the smoking ban, Towers said.

Unlike most prisons, which have Inmate Advisory Councils made up of inmates who represent others in meetings with the wardens, there is no such line of communication at the House of Correction.

Administrators disbanded the council in 1999 when authorities raided the lockup and transferred inmates who were accused of exerting too much "influence" at the House of Correction.

The forum for airing concerns had never been re-established, DOC officials acknowledged yesterday.

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Appeals court raps attorney but upholds inmate awards.

July 27, 2001

Inmate awards were upheld by an appeals court in a case where young inmates said they were sexually abused by Wackenhut Corrections Corporation employees. But the inmates' attorney was sanctioned for disclosing the terms of the confidential agreement.

Several girls said they were sexually and mentally abused by Wackenhut employees at the Coke County Juvenile Justice Center in Bronte, Texas. Wackenhut owns and operates the facility.

The claims were settled in mediation for 1.5 million. Wackenhut was to prepare the settlement papers by Oct. 8, 1999, and wire transfer the settlement funds to the inmates' attorney by Oct. 15, 1999. However, Wackenhut failed to do so.

The attorney filed a motion to enforce the settlement agreement, but failed to do so under seal, which exposed the terms of the settlement agreement and resulted in a newspaper article about the deal.

Wackenhut then moved to set aside the settlement and sought sanctions against the inmates' counsel.

The court referred the matter to a magistrate judge who found the inmates' counsel had acted in bad faith. However, he recommended upholding the settlement.

He also recommended the inmates' attorney be sanctioned in the amount of 133,000 for failing to take steps to prevent the disclosure of the settlement terms.

The district court accepted the judge's recommendations. It also ordered the attorney to pay 15,000 to the district court and reduced his contingency fee from 40 percent to 30 percent. The attorney appealed.

"In this case, there is simply no good faith reason for counsel not to have filed the motion to enforce under seal, given that the settlement agreement signed in mediation expressly guarantees the confidentiality of the terms of the settlement," the appeals court said in affirming the decision of the district court.

Toon v. Wackenhut, et al., Nos. 00-10201, 00-10206, 00-10234 (5th Cir. Ct. App. 05/17/2001.)

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Ex-Guards Indicted in Beating of Inmate

Crime: Two officers fired by the private outfit running Seal Beach jail allegedly orchestrated the violence.
TIMES STAFF WRITERS - August 30 2001

Two fired guards were indicted Wednesday for allegedly orchestrating a fight between two inmates at the Seal Beach City Jail, prompting the city to review its ties to the private company that operates the facility.

The former guards, who worked for Correctional Systems Inc. before being fired, are accused by a federal grand jury of arranging and concealing an attack on a drunken inmate who was singing boisterously in the jail's detoxification cell.

According to the U.S. attorney's office, one of the officers allegedly goaded the attacker before escorting him into the detoxification cell for the beating. The second guard allegedly helped cover up the incident, which left 28-year-old Arrow Stowers of Huntington Beach badly bruised and bloodied. The motive for the June 21 attack, prosecutors said, was to quiet down Stowers.

"He was yelling and singing," said Deputy U.S. Atty. Debora Rodriguez. "That's pretty standard in the detox cell."

The U.S. attorney's office charged Javier Ferreira, 32, of Riverside with federal civil rights violations because he allegedly used his position as a guard to induce an attack on Stowers. The second guard, James Edward Smith, 27, of Long Beach, was charged with being an accessory after the fact for allegedly trying to conceal the incident.

The former guards, who did not return telephone calls Wednesday, must appear in U.S. District Court in Santa Ana on Tuesday to answer to the charges. Ferreira faces a maximum penalty of 10 years in prison and a $250,000 fine. Smith could face up to five years' imprisonment.

Correctional Systems Inc. operates detention facilities throughout Southern California and the West. CSI has run the 30-inmate Seal Beach City Jail since 1994, when officials decided a private operator would save money.

CSI's management of the jail has been an issue in the past, including lawsuits saying guards did not properly respond to the medical problems of two inmates who died there.

Still, city officials said they are generally pleased with the contractor's performance.

In the wake of the beating, however, the city began a review of its arrangement and is considering other options, according to the Seal Beach Police Department and the city manager.

"Obviously, we're going to have to revisit the contract to see if we want to maintain a long-term relationship with CSI," said the city manager, John B. Bahorski.

Stowers' attorney said his client was "thoroughly beaten" and continues to suffer emotional wounds from the episode. He says that both the city and CSI are responsible.

"When you get sucked into a jail like this, your life and limb are totally at the whim of your jailer," said the lawyer, Colin C. Swainston. "The protections at the jail were totally inadequate."

John R. Forren, president and chief executive of Correctional Systems, did not return telephone calls Wednesday seeking comment.

The company came under scrutiny in 1996 after an inmate at the Seal Beach jail said his fellow inmates regularly smoked marijuana and drank alcohol in view of guards. Those allegations prompted police and company officials to search the facility, but no drugs or alcohol were discovered.

Other cities that have contracted with CSI have reported problems.

Hawthorne police canceled their pact with CSI last year after 18 months and retook control of the jail.

"The biggest issue with CSI was they didn't have sufficient guards to handle our jail. . . . They would have them work as long as 18 hours, so the guards were unhappy and we were unhappy," said Hawthorne Police Capt. Richard Prentice. "But we didn't have any problems like this; never did we have any indication they were abusive to prisoners."

In addition, the company has been hit with two wrongful-death lawsuits since 1999 related to the two inmate deaths at the Seal Beach jail. The company was accused in each case of failing to protect inmates admitted with medical problems. One lawsuit was settled and the other is pending, said attorney Timothy Ryan, who represented family members in both cases.

The Seal Beach jail is known as a "pay to stay" facility, where for a fee some people convicted of nonviolent crimes can serve out their terms there instead of the county jail.

The U.S. attorney's office said it doesn't plan to charge the inmate who allegedly beat up Stowers. But the Orange County district attorney is still considering charges.

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Problems plague centers, ex-residents say

Wednesday, August 29, 2001 - El Paso Times

When two men escaped within one week in June from the private detention centers near Horizon City, officials said both were freak incidents in a well-run system.

But several former inmates of both centers, one a combination minimum-security prison and halfway house for parole violators and one a guarded halfway house for probation violators, said escapes were commonplace and just one of many problems.

Company officials disputed the former residents' stories of life inside the two centers at 1650 Horizon, which together house almost 400 people, including about 12 sex offenders and other felons who violated parole.

"We've had a few escapes, and we're addressing the security issues and have changed administrators to address the escapes we've had," said Tiffany Smith, a spokeswoman for Avalon Correctional Services, the Oklahoma City company that runs both centers.

"We're regularly audited by the (Texas Department of Criminal Justice). There are a number of things we must comply with in accordance with our contract. We must meet that, and we have passed those audits."

But some Horizon City residents have their doubts.

"I have a 12-year-old daughter, and I'm concerned about sexual predators," said Ann Miller, 51, who has lived in Horizon City for eight years. "As the crow flies, it's not far from my house."

No current residents of the two detention centers were available for comment. But accounts of loose security and other management problems were common, said former residents who spoke with the El Paso Times. The ex-convicts served from 1998 to July 2001.

During their incarceration, they said, escaping was easy, as residents took advantage of guard staffing shortages and the centers' reliance on security cameras to slip away undetected.

"There's a lot of people who walk off from the (Multi Purpose Facility) that people never hear about," said Terry Estes, a 38-year-old parole violator who served at the Multi Purpose Facility from June 2000 until July 2001. "They hope they catch up to them before anything happens."

The former residents also said those in work programs frequently lost the jobs meant to bring them back into society because late, overcrowded buses or management errors left them stuck inside the facility and away from their work.

Since the two escapes in June, Avalon officials have revamped security and operations by adding cameras, vans, security and razor wire, Smith said.

The Department of Criminal Justice said the parole officers who frequent the centers and state inspections have not revealed any problems great enough to end their partnership.

"There's no system that is perfect, be it a privately run facility or the ones operated by the Department of Criminal Justice," Larry Todd, a department spokesman, said.

Avalon arrived in Horizon City in the early 1990s, part of the trend to shift responsibility for inmates from public to private prisons. By cutting back on staff pay rates or replacing positions with surveillance equipment, the private prisons were able to cut the costs of housing residents.

Private corrections companies touted the millions of dollars saved by their customers throughout the nation, as well as the jobs and revenue that followed the arrival of private prisons.

Avalon officials estimate that they pay $3.6 million a year in property taxes, salaries and payments to local vendors. Both facilities combined employ 92 people, Smith said.

Critics of the private corrections industry said cost-cutting left holes in security and undermined attempts at rehabilitation.

Estes said such problems were often apparent at the Multi Purpose Facility, which opened in 2000.

As residents lined up for their medication or meals, they would pass time by studying the televisions that displayed the camera footage used in lieu of live guards. Residents quickly discovered the dead spots that surveillance cameras did not cover, Estes and other former residents said.

With that information, residents had ample time to make their escapes, including one man who was able to scale a barbed-wire fence with a cast on his leg, Estes said.

"Those cameras are worthless," he said. "There's like a 15- to 25-foot space (where) I can do whatever I want and never be seen."

Many of the problems were fixed in the security overhaul the two facilities underwent after June's escapes, Smith said. The company added cameras to fill in any gaps and started using guards whenever residents are outside.

"This meets the standards for a medium-security prison," said Dan Lopez, assistant warden for both facilities. "We've added extra cameras and a perimeter patrol that drives around 24 hours a day."

But other problems exist within the centers that prompt parole and probation violators on the verge of freedom to risk felony escape charges, the former residents said.

Allegations of intimidation from gangs, mistreatment by guards and a lack of response to the complaints filed about such issues were among the list of residents' complaints.

Daniel Baca, a 26-year-old probation violator who stayed at the Intermediate Sanction Facility for 10 months and left in July 1998, said the center's operations hindered residents' attempts to find and keep jobs.

He said that his maintenance classes were nothing more than helping the building handyman with his work and that hours of community service he performed -- and needed in order to get a work release -- were unaccounted for.

Frequent problems with the company bus that took residents from the center to the outside world cost Baca several jobs, he said.

"A lot of people are on schedules, have to catch a bus or walk to work from drop points," Baca said. "They'd be late enough to miss a bus, be late for work and get fired."

Residents attributed most of the problems to a staff they called inexperienced and underpaid.

County probation officials, who pay the centers to house some of their probation violators, acknowledged that the $7-an-hour rate for guards leads to frequent turnover and constant retraining.

"Staff turnover is probably the biggest problem," said Stephen Enders, director of the West Texas Community Supervision and Corrections Department. "I think it's an impediment."

Avalon officials acknowledged the high turnover rate, Smith said. But before the company can increase guard pay, the facilities have to increase occupancy rates to become more profitable.

"That's just something a private company is going to have to deal with," Smith said. "They won't be able to pay what states do. We save taxpayers money by charging lower per diem."

The Multi Purpose Facility could still fit about 100 more residents, Smith said.

But after June's escapes, some Horizon City residents promised that expansion would face opposition.

"All it's done is solidify my resolve against their expansion," said Tom Ruiz, a former mayor of Horizon City. "There's too many sweet little ol' ladies that are scared to death."

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