Familiar names, familiar problems.
As the public rethinks harsh mandatory sentences swelling prison populations, a GEO Group offshoot and other private prison firms are focusing on another cash-for-inmates opportunity: privatization of state mental health hospitals and civil commitment centers, particularly in Florida and Texas.
Grassroots Leadership, a Texas-based criminal justice advocacy group, is taking aim at this “net-widening,”especially in Florida and Texas, with a report released Wednesday.
It’s a perfect profit center, the report’s authors said, because unlike traditional prisoners, terms of confinement can leave people there indefinitely.
Some aren’t going to make it out alive, such as the mental patient who died in a scalding bathtub in South Florida State Hospital, the tissue on his face “sloughing” off, as The Post reported in 2013
Last month, another man died in the state’s privately run 198-bed Treasure Coast Forensic Treatment Center. He had reportedly been punched by another inmate.
If Grassroots’ criticism of mental health and civil commitment centers seem familiar, so does the company involved. Boca Raton-based GEO Group spun off its medical unit a few years back; the spinoff became part of Correct Care Solutions LLC. A former GEO executive became president and CEO of Correct Care.
Correct Care is running three of Florida’s troubled state mental hospitals, part of the state system blasted in a recent Tampa Bay Times/ Sarasota Herald Tribune investigation. It also runs Florida’s civil commitment center housing sex offenders.
That’s of particular concern, given GEO’s track record of treating inmates, exposed in a Palm Beach Post series.
On the other hand, not everyone is worried about Correct Care. Late last year, the company announced its work at the state’s South Florida State Hospital and South Florida Evaluation and Treatment Center was recognized for meeting key quality benchmarks by The Joint Commission, the top accreditation group for U.S. health care organizations.
The same month, it announced it had snared a Department of Justice deal valued at up to $65 million to run the federal prison in Coleman.
But, said Caroline Isaacs, Arizona program director for the American Friends Service Committee, when it comes to privatizing prisons and criminal justice, “There is a clear disconnect between performance and contract acquisition.”
AFSC is working with Grassroots to research privatization issues, and, said Isaacs, “We see consistent patterns of abuse, neglect, lawsuits, escapes, riots and somehow these corporations are still getting contracts.”
That was the case with Corizon, which snared a $1 billion-plus contract with Florida to provide medical care to prison inmates despite a trail of horrific inmate care both in Florida and other states.