Tuesday, July 03, 2012

Private prison news: Inmate deaths, contractor changes, and are private jailers 'destined for destruction'?

A few items related to private prisons caught my eye recently that may interest Grits readers:

Antibiotics allegedly delayed in pneumonia death
The Dawson State Jail saw its eighth death since 2004, reported the Dallas CBS affiliate (via Texas Prison Bidness). "Her family says Ashleigh [Parks] had pneumonia and they believe her death could have been prevented if she had simply gotten antibiotics sooner.  Their suspicions are based, in part, on letters they received from inmates at Dawson."

State changing treatment contractors
Meanwhile, TDCJ is changing contractors for drug treatment services at at least four state facilities from Community Education Centers to an entity called Gateway Foundation Inc., reported the Corpus Christi Caller Times. "The contract change affects 116 CEC positions at four prison units: Glossbrenner, the Halbert Unit in Burnet, the Kyle Correctional Center near Austin and the Sayle Unit near Breckenridge." CEC got the contract in 2009, so one wonders why the state felt the need to change contractors so soon. Gateway Foundation's website lists six other Texas facilities where they provide treatment services.

Geo Group wrongly took prisoner off suicide watch, lawsuit alleged
Also via Texas Prison Bidness, according to the SA Express News, "Relatives of an inmate who hanged himself at the privately run Central Texas Detention Facility [in downtown San Antonio] have sued Florida-based The GEO Group and its warden, alleging the federal prisoner was able to kill himself because he was wrongly taken off suicide watch in December 2011.

Analyst: Private prison companies "destined for destruction"
The Motley Fool asked, "Did the prison bubble just burst?," which is a question Grits has been pondering for more than a year. Wrote Justin Loiseau,  "a critical look at the failings and financial fudging of these corporations reveals several reasons why this sector is destined for destruction." Read why.


DeathBreath said...

So, the corporate pigs are running amok with fear of litigation? My heart bleeds. Ultimately, this will cost the state of Texas. In one way or another, the impact of crime will reach you front door. If you are a greedy taxpayer who opposes tax increases, I hope your life is touched in a special way.

Prison Doc said...

Thanks for the nice medical post that just begs for comment!

First, pneumonia. Yes, it still happens and young people still die of it more often that you would think. Delays in antibiotics can be a factor but more likely it is the type and aggressivness of the bacteria involved. There are too many variables here to be able to say "the jail killed her." They probably didn't. Bad events occur, not always someone's fault.

CEC vs. Gateway treatment programs. I'm familiar with Gateway and I think they do a good job. A lot depends upon the motivation of the offender, and many are surprisingly unmotivated. Both programs allow offenders to blatantly seek substance use from the medical department--personally I think substance abuse treatment needs to be 100% abstinence based and I wish the treatment staff were less tolerant of these abuses. They used to be made of sterner stuff, but now it is hard to "bust" an offender out of the treatment program for not toe-ing the line. I am told that this is due to pressure from TDCJ to allow all to stay in the program, but my info could be wrong.

Suicide at Geo. Why would an offender commit suicide on his release day? Perhaps he'd decided he didn't want to deal with his demons any more. It's well known that a person who has decided on suicide will probably succeed if his mind is made up. Apparently this man had made up his mind and it's unlikely that he would bd dissuaded. Most suicide policies are uniform among prisons public and private; I doubt Geo was in the wrong, it's just unfortunate. FULL DISCLOSURE: I previously associated with this facility as physician 2001-2008.

Demise of Private Prisons. I think the answer to this question lies in whether the government will choose to continue with a mass incarceration approach. If yes, private prisons will go on; if no, maybe not. The private prison companies provide those services and amenities that their contracts specify: no more, no less. I disagree with the Motley Fool writer when he states that government prisons have a goal of "rehabilitation and societal improvement". Nonsense. The goal of both private and state prisons is just to lock people up. Main difference in my 12 years of experience in both is that the private prisons make money through adverse selection of employees, benefits, and pay--all of which are poor.

Happy 4th of July to All. Celebrate your freedon, prisoners don't have any.

The Geography Lady said...

Gateway had the drug treatment program, the CEC underbid them and took it over. Now Gateway has it back.
The only thing that changes is that the LCDCs who actually do the work never get raises, and as the number of positions keeps getting cut, each worker has to do more and more.

Gritsforbreakfast said...

Prison Doc, the story on delayed antibiotics included this line:

"CBS 11 obtained internal CCA documents that show the chief of security reported that the supervisors did not follow proper procedures by failing to call for help for Pam Weatherby." The security chief "recommended terminating a shift supervisor. But when CCA had to file an incident report with the State of Texas, the warden wrote 'staff acted in accordance with TDCJ procedure” and concluded that “no training needs have been identified.'”

If it's accurate, as the story alleges, that CCA failed to follow their own procedures for securing medical care, ignored their own security chief's recommendation to fire the supervisor, and misled TDCJ regarding whether procedures had been followed, then you seem a little quick to exculpate them.

Prison Doc said...

I don't want to beat this to death, but I'm not trying to exculpate anyone; if I am it would be the medical staff, and your additional quote seems to address the security staff, not medical. Perhaps they security staff did not arrange early enough medical intervention. I don't think that would happen in a TDCJ facility in 2012. There's no downside to bringing an offender to medical. I hope proper corrective actions are taken.

Gritsforbreakfast said...

Prison Doc, Dawson is a TDCJ facility, just run by a private contractor. Anyway, healthcare in prison, as you know, is a system that requires security and medical staff to work together, since otherwise medical won't know who needs services. CCA is responsible for alerting medical staff to inmate needs and here they waited too long according to their own procedures. Given that, I think it's a bit premature for you to conclude, "There are too many variables here to be able to say 'the jail killed her.' They probably didn't."

If medical staff weren't notified and antibiotics were delayed to the point someone died, that's a problem. Just saying "Bad things occur" seems like you're blowing it off without inquiry in the same way the CCA warden did.

Unknown said...

Why is just getting out that Gateway is taking over? My husband is in the Kyle safp unit and he told me about three weeks ago. I'm concerned for him. I have heard nothing, but bad about GATEWAY.

Phillip Baker said...

Prison Doc, I generally respect your opinions. Don't necessarily agree all the time, but you seem serious and thoughtful. But your statements about security acting promptly on pleas for medical attention just do not square with what I have seen and heard from folks on several units. On Jester III recently, a 31yo man suddenly had a grand mal seizure one night- first one ever and otherwise healthy. After his cellie and others finally got the attention of security, he was taken to medical. There, inexplicably, the PA looked him over, drew some blood, and sent him back to his cell. No overnight observation. The next day he had another. The security staff was markedly slow in responding to pleas for help. It seemed deliberate. After an inexcusable time, medical finally came. But this healthy young man died shortly after. (The family got a call from TDCJ that simply said your son is dead. No condolences, no reason for the death given. Cold. Heartless. Pure TDCJ)

Getting security to notify medical is a real issue. I suspect there is an unspoken collusion between the two, to limit "frivolous" medical requests, but should we not expect medical staff to make those determinations?

Security's nonchalant and often hostile approach to medical care for inmates is notorious and rampant. But then, there is NO accountability to hold either section to good behavior.

Hook Em Horns said...

For better and for worse TDCJ is only as good as the people who work there. I have had clients tell me stories about CO's/Medical Staff and others who have shown tremendous compassion and concern and are exemplary officers. I have also heard horror stories.

Unless Prison Doc or any of us are in every single unit all of the time, it is impossible for us to comment about what goes on inside every prison in every situation at any given time.

ckikerintulia said...

The demise of private prisons? Please notify me. I will conduct the funeral, free of charge!

Unknown said...

Special interest groups maintain a constant pressure complaining to TDCJ about what they are sure is the medieval treatment of the inmates. They pull at any thread available to further their cause never stopping to consider any other alternative explication to the situation at hand. No comparison to the freeworld is ever applied that would allow common sense to enter into the picture. It seems TDCJ/UTMB is guilty of some negligence in the event of every bad patient outcome until they can clear themselves.

In the case of the inmate’s death secondary to pneumonia, (as Prison Doc points out), there are multiple factors to consider and yes people in the freeworld die of pneumonia everyday.

What these special interest groups don’t realize is that their relentless attacks on the prison system’s health care often end up detracting from patient care in general. It puts TDCJ/UTMB in a permanent defensive posture. This in turn motivates the legal departments to demand policies and procedures be put in place that they think would help there position in a defense. Often these policies outline care standards that cause a duplication of work. Add to this the frequent audits to make sure these policies are being adhered to and the result is correctional health care staff spend more time proving they give good care that actually giving that care. Now with the system grossly under funded all the medical departments at TDCJ facilities are under staffed as they have never been before and this compounds the problem.

Are there bad patient outcomes in the prison system that are the result of the care that the patient received? Of course there are but, as some people would have us believe not every one of them. However, in the present atmosphere every bad outcome is considered to be the result of substandard patient care. This guilty until proven innocent standard helps nothing and in my opinion detracts from patient care.

Anonymous said...

I suppose the burying ones head in the sand and denying there are problems doesn't detract from patient care at all?

rodsmith said...

well philip there is a solution to actions like this!

". After his cellie and others finally got the attention of security, he was taken to medical. There, inexplicably, the PA looked him over, drew some blood, and sent him back to his cell. No overnight observation. The next day he had another. The security staff was markedly slow in responding to pleas for help. It seemed deliberate. After an inexcusable time, medical finally came. But this healthy young man died shortly after. (The family got a call from TDCJ that simply said your son is dead. No condolences, no reason for the death given. Cold. Heartless. Pure TDCJ)"

If the guards and medical are going to treat you like an ANIMAL...BECOME ONE. If they through their INACTION or stupidty cause the death of one of you...KILL ONE OF THEM! just remember to make sure it's one of those involved in the original death. you are in a prison..those are NOT safe places.

I can almost guarantee won't have to do it too many times and the delays would stop.

gravyrug said...

I know from a friend that was inside that the Dawson unit used to be very, very stingy with antibiotics, or with really any medicine other than ibuprofen. Lots of folks there have had some kind of infection that was ignored or treated grudgingly and sparingly. This was several years ago, but it sounds like the same attitude is there.

Unknown said...

Whatever the reason for the death of the offender who died of pneumonia, the cost of the antibiotics is not a factor. The cost of medications for UTMB is so low it is not even considered when looking at the budget for areas to cut back on.

Phillip Baker said...

Sorry, Rodsmith, but killing someone to settle a grievance is wrong on many levels. I'll continue trying to get these incidents exposed, the staff involved reviewed/fired/ held accountable. Prisons are not safe places mainly because so many there- on both sides of the bars- resort to such violence. You have to draw a line somewhere.

rodsmith said...

your right phillip you have to draw the line somewhere and for me that line is WHEN YOU START KILLING PEOPLE!

At that POINT they have the legal and MORAL RIGHT to kill you if they can.

i'm all for giving the autorities a chance to clean up thier own mess but just how many cheeks we to allow them to slap before we slap back?

sorry this type of thing results in far too mean dead human beings every year. It has long went past the point where they can avoid physical action on their own bodies for their continual CRIMINAL actioni.

rodsmith said...

little follow up phillip. I'd be happy to admit your right IF you can show me ANYTHING in the U.S. Constution that takes american's RIGHT TO DEFEND THEMSELVE when attacked away from them ANYWHERE There is no exception in that document for govt employees Heck you could say the 2nd amendment was written SPECIFICALLY to keep said govt IN CHECK! There is certainly Nothing written anywhere that states that american's in prison NO LONGER have the RIGHT to defend themselves when attacked and or KILLED no matter WHO is doing it. From what i've seen the ONLY exception to that would be a court ordered EXECUTION. Other than that if your acting like an idiot or a criminal and your conduct is causing them to be injured or killed they have every constutional right to defend themselves and if they means the CO doing it ends up dead...so be it!

Toxic Reverend said...

The Money Trail of the Private Prison Systems & the Cover Up
Reference material includes charts of the number of people in prison (time line spike) and the ratio of CEO from corporations to the average person in prison ratio in various countries is posted at https://plus.google.com/u/0/photos/111485701979929741583/albums/5704453178244284177

*A partial excerpt of other reference material from the photo album link above follows*

Amy Goodman from Democracy Now Interviews a Texas District Attorney Juan Angel Guerra of whom had tried to indite Vice President Cheney and he explains the money trail

And then the cover up

The Privatization of Prisons For Profit and The Dick CHENEY INDICTMENT-cover-up

Private Prison Expansion Becomes Big Business
Project Censored 11th top censored story of 1999

Juan Angel Guerra

Anonymous said...

" Big Texas News " Just like when my dog got a taste of killing chickens, he never stopped. An inmate is like my dog, you feed it and house it, it will always come back. Comitting a crime is easy work, they will not work. Same as my dog they will always keep killing chickens. Untill they are caged.

Unknown said...

Have any of you read what goes on in DAWSON STATE JAIL, to begin with? yes pneumonia happens. Inmates desrve medical treatment. Dawson State Jail is not a High Security Jail Like other Jails around Texas. "THE JAIL DID KILL THE PEOPLE THAT HAVE DIED THERE POINT BLANK" from not giving proper medical treatment! Why after 8 deaths and still growing as of the year 2012 nothing has been done about this situation? They do not keep records of things in DAWSON STATE JAIL, and Yes I am fighting for the ones have lost their loved ones and for Mine who is in Dawson State Jail. I will continue to fight until something is done about Dawson State Jail. Someone should have done something a long time ago. When the first person Died. not after the 8th or even the baby. IT NEEDS TO BE STOPPED and now before something else happens! I will fight as far as I can go. Dawson needs to be shut down plain and simple!

Anonymous said...

Get the facts straight jackass! He had 5 kids he was excited to come home and see he had waited five years to be released but due to the warden and guards not listening and taking him seriously when he told them someone was going to kill him and the tape that was videotaping his cell mysteriously disappeared and two years later they produce a suicide note that said things he would never say to people he cared nothing for please you geo the guards warden and anyone else can kiss my assignment because he didn't kill himself the corrupt ads guards let someone in to do it to him!