Thursday, October 11, 2007

Mother of Idaho inmate will testify about Geo Group, alleges squalid conditions for out of state prisoners

Friday's Texas Senate hearing on private prison oversight and the Geo Group just got more interesting.

The mother of the Idaho inmate who committed suicide because of allegedly squalid conditions at the Geo Group's Dickens County facility will testify at a hearing tomorrow before the Senate Criminal Justice Committee, AP reports (10/10). Excellent! I mentioned yesterday I hoped she could testify. AP's John Miller writes that Ms. Noble:
blames Idaho and The GEO Group, Inc. — the Florida-based private prison company that runs the Dickens County prison in Spur, Texas, where her son slashed his throat — for neglecting to monitor deteriorating conditions that Idaho officials now concede may have contributed to his suicide. Payne, 43, a convicted sex offender, was kept alone for months in a cell with a constantly wet floor, bloodstained sheets and smelly towels.

"It's what I have found out about GEO, the filth, and people being taken away from their families," Shirley Noble told The Associated Press about her reasons for testifying. "They can't afford the fares to go visit. They can't afford the excess telephone bills."

After Payne's death, Idaho Department of Correction officials investigated and called Dickens the worst prison they'd ever seen.
The assessment by the Idaho Department of Corrections and Ms. Noble's complaints sound hauntingly similar to allegations about Geo's Coke County unit from TYC's Ombudsman and Executive Director, don't they? Welcome to Texas Prison Bidness.

I'm glad to hear Ms. Noble was able to come to Texas on such short notice ... this should make for compelling testimony tomorrow morning at the capitol.

See prior related Grits coverage:
See more on the Geo Group from Texas Prison Bidness.

See also the Dallas News, "Jail operator Geo's trouble's not limited to Coke County youth lockup."


tttt said...

The Texas Jail Commission needs to be there testifying about Dickens as well. There exist a record of inspections since they have oversight authority.

tttt said...

It occurs to me that after escaping, Payne should have immediately been transferred back to Idaho. The Jail Commission has certain rules regarding classifications of prisoners sent from other states to Texas private prisons. One of the rules is that inmates with escape records cannot be accepted and Dickens cannot have maximum security inmates. One could argue, however, that Payne was being kept there for a detainer. That's a point that needs to be brought up at this hearing. I'm certain that there are other classification violations of inmates received from Idaho. The intergovernmental agreement and the contract between Idaho DOC and Dickens County would spell that out.

Anonymous said...

Filth is filty! What does classification status have to do with the squalid conditions of GEO facilities in Texas.

tttt said...

Well, how about a mindset. If I'm GEO and I'm going to import inmates that are inappropriately classified according to TCJS rules, what makes you think I'm going to keep the facility clean?

W W Woodward said...

What about the word "Allegedly" do people not understand?

I have worked at the Dickens County Correctional Center [DCCC] for approximately 15 years. While Payne's suicide was extremely regrettable he was not forced to live in a cell "with a constantly wet floor, bloodstained sheets and smelly towels." The AP "reporter" who broke Payne's story never visited DCCC. He relied upon information gleaned from letters Payne wrote to his mother. The AP reporter's story was printed in at least four newspapers and has been repeated for several months now, so it MUST be true.

I appreciate Ms Noble's concerns and I understand her feelings as a parent who has experienced having a child incarcerated. But, Ms Noble has never visited DCCC and has no first hand information as to living conditions in DCCC.

I am not a fan of Geo. The sooner Geo clears out of Dickens County, the better I'll like it. I don't like Geo's attitude, ["we can do what we want because we say we can."] ["I've worked for TDC, so I know all there is to know about jails."] ["You can't tell me anything I don't already know."] however the employees working at DCCC are, for the most part, conscientious, hardworking people who try their best to conform to Texas jail standards and treat our inmates like the human beings they are.

Payne was a convicted sex offender and from what I have been able to learn from his final letters to his mother was a totally self-centered individual. None of his "deep from the soul" writings seemed to be concerned with the child victim of the crime that put him into the criminal justice system to begin with.

Payne's escape from DCCC wasn't an Idaho crime. The felony escape charges were filed in Texas in a Texas court and Payne remained in a Texas jail because the offense occurred in Texas.

I'm sure Ms Noble will have "compelling testimony", but the folks listening to her testimony need to remember that she is relying upon her son's letters rather than fact.

Gritsforbreakfast said...

Woodward, we understand allegedly, but the Idaho Department of Corrections, according to AP, corroborated much of what Payne said, calling it the worst facility they'd ever seen. And that was after their own site visits and records inspection.

W W Woodward said...

it's very possible that any Texas jail would qualify as the "worst conditions" the Idaho inspector had "ever seen". The Idaho prisoners ALL have their own personal color television sets connected to cable. An eight man cell resembles a central control TV monitor station. Each Idaho prisoner has his own Game Boy. Idaho inmates are allowed a minimum of 3 hours of recreation 7 days per week. Texas jail standards require one hour, three days per week. They are paid for time spent on job assignments. Texas inmates are forbidden to receive money for working. Idaho inmates are not required to remain in inmate uniform when they leave their cells as are Texas inmates.
Our Texas and Federal inmates are not altogether happy with the perks Idaho inmates receive.

Idaho inmates and Idaho DOC administrators don't seem to understand that, once the inmates cross the Texas state line and are placed into a Texas jail, they are subject to Texas Jail Standards.

"We're not in Idaho any more Toto."

If Idaho DOC expects their felons to be treated exactly as they were in Idaho, they should keep them in Idaho.

We're not perfect, but we run a clean facility in spite of what the AP reporter and the Idaho DOC had to say. I invite you to show up unannounced at any time. I would suggest that you drop in at the Dickens County Sheriff's Office and have Sheriff Brendle, Deputy Land, or Janie Walker bring you to the unit so that you will have unhindered access and will be able to go anywhere you like and talk to any officers and/or inmates you wish.

Gritsforbreakfast said...

So which is it, Woodward? Are the allegations untrue, or are they accurate and just tolerated?

And thanks for the contacts - maybe next time I'm headed out that direction I'll take you up on it and visit.

Anonymous said...

And then we would only have one man's opinion.

How many people have to complain before you are willing to admit that something is wrong?

Just because that's the way it is done in Texas does not make it right.

Your opinion does ot make it right either. After all, you have not cited any other sources to validate your opinion.

Anonymous said...


The NYT ran an article today on a Congressional investigation of private youth boot camps that you should check out.

It basically validates my earlier point about the many problems with privately run youth facilities.

Don't have the URL handy but it ran today.

Bill Bush

tttt said...

Woody's an honorable and conscientious man who speaks from the heart. I've had the pleasure of working with him in the past when we held Montana and Hawaiian inmates at Dickens. Montana officials gigged us while at the same time, Hawaii officials sang our praises. Sometimes, you're damned if you do and damned if you don't. You're always going to get gigged on something.

It's all about satisfying the customer and if you can't deliver to all, then get out of the business. I did wonder though, why the Idaho governor still keeps 56 of his inmates at Dickens CCC if conditiond are so bad. I would like to see the Texas Jail Commission's inspection reports and see if they reflect what Montana found. They would most definitely have files of any complaints from Idaho's inmates.

The bottom line to all of this is the DCCC is not suited to hold prison inmates. Never has and never will.

Anonymous said...

Top 2 officials removed at West Texas State School

Termination was due to 'gross negligence,' TYC spokesman says


Just shows how GREAT our NEW LEADERSHIP is leading < NUFF SAID >

Staff shortages and Pepper spray should be their downfall soon.......GO BRONCO !!!!