Here’s how business makes money off the state’s mentally ill and sex offenders

Familiar names, familiar problems.

Bob Libal, executive director of Grassroots Leadership
Bob Libal, executive director of Grassroots Leadership

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

As problems have surfaced at GEO-run facilities, protests have grown.
As problems have surfaced at GEO-run facilities, protests have grown.

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.

 

 

 

Hey, Buddy, can you spare a hipbone? A prison inmate lost his to DOC

 

Buddy, can you spare a hip bone?
Maybe someone has an extra one of these laying around?

George Horn got a bed and it only took two years.

That’s two years of sleeping in a prison wheelchair.

This month, though, Horn reports the Florida Department of Corrections has finally come through with a hospital bed.

Horn needs the bed because he has no hip bone. He has no hip bone because FDOC first removed it, then refused to replace it.

That left him in a wheelchair, night and day. Pretty hard to climb into a bunk bed without a hip.

It also left Horn in excruciating pain. And an FDOC doctor took away his morphine, too – cold turkey.

In fact, FDOC’s medical staff ignored outside surgeon’s instructions, and so for months, prison medical staff drained Horn’s infected leg rather than operate on it.

At one point, says Horn, they suctioned the infected liquid out of his leg with what appeared to be dental equipment.

Even when one surgeon – who didn’t work for DOC – said Horn had to go to an ER for emergency treatment of his leg, which was oozing infected “material”, FDOC and its private medical contractors ignored his instructions, the surgeon said.

George Horn
George Horn

But Horn reports he got a hospital bed this month, and Lortab three times a day. He also reports he has an infection in the leg again. And, of course, no hipbone.

George Horn didn’t get to prison because he is an angel, and he would be the first to say so. He’s in for burglary. But as he told The Post back in 2014,  “Being in prison is my punishment to pay my debt to society. I messed up.”

“But,” he said, “I’m a prisoner, not a monster.”

Horn is in federal court, suing both the state and the private medical company which oversaw his treatment, at least, part of the time. They moved to have the suit tossed. A federal magistrate just said no, and in pretty strong language.

Virtual visitation with prisoners: The jury’s still out

Face to face, sort of
Face to face, sort of

Virtual reality, meet prison life: Marketplace radio  reports this morning on the rising popularity of video visitations with jail and prison inmates.

On the surface, it’s a tech issue. But it’s also about whether the inmate will wind up back behind bars, especially if they are behind bars for a few years, as opposed to a few months. There’s evidence that recidivism is impacted by continued ties to loved ones and friends while serving time.

On one hand, the video conferencing will help families who may be hundreds of miles away from the prison. Or thousands of miles: Inmates are sometimes housed in out-of-state prisons, making a visit pretty much impossible.

And anyone who has ever wanted to visit a Florida inmate will wade through a thicket of dos and don’ts in order to get permission to visit, including things that probably wouldn’t be a problem with a video chat, such as wearing a tank top, carrying car keys and having a $20 bill in your back pocket.

On the other hand, there’s the human factor. Will a talk via screen carry the same emotional benefit as a talk behind a thick glass partition?

No big prison reform, but now they can track the chemical spray

Apparently, Florida has all along needed a law- or Rick Scott’s blessing – to figure out just how much CS gas (aka pepper spray)  state prisons have, where they put it and how they can get rid of it.Scott+2015

Finding a better way to trash empty gas canisters is not what the architects of a sweeping Senate prison reform bill had in mind this past session.

That bill was gutted by the House, though, just before it closed down for business three days ahead of schedule.

All along, lawmakers behind the Senate bill said the House’s suggested reforms weren’t reforms at all, but were window dressing: Changes that no one needed a law to implement.

Like figuring out how to inventory pepper spray.

This afternoon, Gov. Scott signed  Executive Order 15-102, which the governor’s office said makes “significant reforms in Florida’s prison system to improve safety, transparency and accountability.” Among the reforms:

  • Establishment of a usage and inventory policy to track, by institution, the use of chemical agents and disposal of expired, used, or damaged canisters of chemical agents.

The order also includes some significant items, such as unannounced inspections and  statistical analysis examining use of force by guards.

Not included, though, was the central Senate reform, an independent oversight commission. Nor were other reforms the Senate considered necessary in the wake of a series of stories by The Post, the Miami Herald and others exposing prison inmate deaths, abuse and unchecked brutality.

Just months ago, FSU’s Project on Accountable Justice concluded the state prison agency was so flawed that it recommended basically rebuilding it from the ground up.

One of the cases cited by the group:  The 2010 death of  Randall Jordan-Aparo.

He was gassed to death by guards.

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Another day, another Florida prison guard headed to jail

Columbia CI
Columbia CI

Another day, another prison guard bust.

Make that two guards.

The Florida Department of Law Enforcement (FDLE) reports that Columbia Correctional prison Sgt. Christopher Michael Jernigan and guard Donald Dwight Sims, Jr. have been charged with aggravated battery on an inmate and, in Jernigan’s case, tampering with evidence.

According to the FDLE, this is how it played out:

The Columbia Correctional Institution guards were taking Shurick Lewis, 41, to solitary confinement this past February when they ordered other inmates to leave the area. Lewis was then taken to a place without video surveillance and assaulted.

According to FDLE, after the beating, Jernigan told other inmates to clean up the blood, put a new mattress on the bunk and throw away bloody clothes.

Lewis, bleeding from his nose and mouth and with a swollen eye, was seen by a prison nurse. It’s not known what care he got, but the nurse sent him back to his cell – where he lost consciousness.

Several hours later, he was found by officers on the next shift and taken to Shands Hospital, where he was treated for a broken nose and several facial fractures.

The two guards offered vastly different stories: Sims said Lewis fell off his bunk. Jernigan said he used force after the inmate lunged at him.

Florida Department of Corrections Secretary Julie Jones
Florida Department of Corrections Secretary Julie Jones

Jernigan turned himself in to the Columbia County Jail yesterday. Sims was arrested Monday night.

All this comes within weeks of the arrest of two prison guards and one ex-guard — all reputed members of the Ku Klux Klan — for conspiring to kill a former inmate.

That doesn’t exactly qualify as the start of a clean sweep, but it does give some credence to  Department of Corrections Secretary Julie Jones’s written comments about Jernigan and Sims: “The Florida Department of Corrections has absolutely no tolerance for the behavior and actions taken by these individuals.”

 

Prison reform dead on arrival in House

Oh, who needed prison reform, anyway?

Certain Florida lawmakers just couldn’t get out of Tallahassee fast enough,  even if it meant dropping a major prison oversight bill like a hot potato.

A bill which included creation of an oversight  committee to watchdog the Florida Department of Corrections  sailed through the Senate- but the House  balked at the oversight provision.

Then the House, in a snit-fit worthy of the Terrible  Twos, adjourned yesterday, three days before the  session was slated to end. They couldn’t agree on  health coverage, so why keep talking when you could pack your bags and go home? asked House Speaker Steve Crisafulli, R-Merritt Island.

Bills were left in in the dust. And so was prison reform.

Henry Carvajal, whose undiagnosed bone cancer was treated with Tylenol, ibuprofen
Henry Carvajal, whose undiagnosed bone cancer was treated with Tylenol, ibuprofen

That’s despite the fact that in the last year, The Palm Beach  Post, the Miami Herald and the News Service of Florida have all detailed horrific neglect, abuse and deaths.

Thomas Newcomb, ex guard charged with conspiring to murder former inmate
Thomas Newcomb, ex guard charged with conspiring to murder former inmate

And just this month, an ex-Florida prison guard – and  reputed Ku Klux Klan Grand Cyclops – was

arrested and charged with conspiring to murder a  former inmate. Also  arrested were two other Florida  state prison guards, both identified as KKK  members.

 

 

 

 

 

The fishing pole, the snitch, the fake murder & the KKK guards

Thomas Newcomb
Thomas Newcomb

Reputed Ku Klux Klan Grand Cyclops Charles Thomas Newcomb had two vials of insulin, eight rounds of 9MM ammo wiped clean of prints, a fishing pole and a plan.

Talks recorded by an FBI informant outline why Newcomb, an ex-Florida prison guard, was arrested Thursday and charged with conspiring to murder a former inmate.

Also arrested were two other Florida state prison guards identified as KKK members: David Elliot Moran and Thomas Jordan Driver.

It was Driver who fought with the inmate and who was bitten by him.
He had the grudge.

Thomas Driver
Thomas Driver

Arrest affidavits released late Thursday, though, indicate that it was Newcomb who had the plan.

In Palatka, where the ex-inmate lived, Newcomb didn’t rule out going in “with guns blazing,” according to the informant.

But he had a quieter option.

“I see that fishing pole like he’s been fishing, and give him a couple of (insulin) shots, and sit there and wait on him, then we can kind of lay him so he’s tippled over into the water. And he can breathe in just a little bit of that water,” Newcomb is quoted as saying in a transcribed recording.

“If we go down the road, and that son of a gun is walking by himself and there’s nobody else around, it ain’t going to take nothing for us to just stop the car and put him in this car and take him somewhere.”

David Moran
David Moran

It might have gone down just that way. But the informant got to the FBI, the FBI got to the targeted victim and together they staged a gory murder scene. The informant took cell phone pictures of the murder to Newcomb, Moran and Driver.

In transcripts of recordings with the men, the informant asks “Is this what ya’ll wanted?”

“Yeah!” responds one. “Hell yeah!”

The FBI arrested all three Thursday morning. They face 30 years in state prison.

Moran and Driver are being fired, said a Florida Department of Corrections spokesman.

To read the source affidavit used here: NEWCOMB – AFFIDAVIT AW_Redacted

Update: DOC chief fires two prison guards arrested for plotting to kill inmate

Florida Department of Corrections Secretary Julie Jones
Florida Department of Corrections Secretary Julie Jones

Updated at 2:08 p.m.
Florida Department of Corrections chief Julie Jones issued this statement following today’s arrest of two current prison guards and one former guard, all KKK members, with plotting to kill an African-American inmate:
“We are moving swiftly to terminate the employees arrested today and working closely with Office of the Attorney General to assist in their prosecution. Our Department has zero tolerance for racism or prejudice of any kind. The actions of these individuals are unacceptable and do not, in any way, represent the thousands of good, hardworking and honorable correctional officers employed at the Department of Corrections.”
The former officer charged in the plot, Charles Thomas Newcomb, was hired in 2012 but dismissed the following year “for failure to meet correctional officer’s minimum training requirements” according to a FDOC spokesman.

Original post: Three current and former Florida prison guards – all members of the Ku Klux Klan – were arrested today and charged with conspiring to kill an African American inmate when he is released from state prison.
Charles Thomas Newcomb, 42, is a former state prison guard; as of this morning, Thomas Jordan Driver, 25, and David Elliot Moran, 47, were still pulling paychecks from the Florida Department of Corrections.
All are members of the Traditional American Knights of the Ku Klux Klan.
The name of the inmate has not been released. However, Attorney General Pam Bondi said in a prepared statement that the three men plotted the murder as retaliation for a fight between the prisoner and Driver.
The list of agencies involved is a long one: Bondi’s Office of Statewide Prosecution and the Federal Bureau of Investigation made the arrest, but Homeland Security, the Florida Department of Corrections Office of Inspector General, the Florida Department of Law Enforcement, the Florida Highway Patrol, the Florida Fish and Wildlife, the U.S. Customs and Border Patrol, the Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office and the St. Johns County Sheriff’s Office assisted.
The mens’ trial will take place in Columbia County.

In prison, a death by peanut butter

PB sandwich
A freshly minted state memo on investigating “unnatural” state prison inmate deaths may not do certain dead and dying prisoners a lot of good.
The memo between the Florida Department of Corrections (DOC) and the Florida Department of Law Enforcement (FDLE) enables FDLE, not DOC, to investigate unnatural inmate deaths -think homicide, suicide- from here on out.
But that doesn’t appear to include deaths by accidents, and accidents are sometimes in the eye of the beholder.
Take Marvin Morris. It’s not clear whether he had mental problems, but it certainly looked that way in April 2013, when Morris crashed his head into a metal door at least once and ran wildly about an enclosed area, eventually falling to the concrete floor.
According to statements given to state investigators, guards waited until Morris was on the floor, unresponsive and dying, before entering the area.
Much was made of the fact that Morris was smuggling a peanut butter sandwich out of the chow hall at the time. And Morris’s elderly mother said she was told by DOC that her son had choked to death on the peanut butter.
His death is categorized as an accident.
There is much about this accident that FDLE would not have looked at under the new agreement with DOC: Would Morris have lived if guards intervened earlier to subdue him? If nurses had?
In fact, DOC investigators recommended criminal charges be brought against two health care workers in connection with Morris’s death.
That didn’t happen.
But Morris’s death, officially an accident, illustrates how possible criminal behavior could escape notice by FDLE, if its investigative scope is limited to homicides and suicides.
Of course, the vast majority of inmates dying in Florida prisons are dying from natural causes, not homicides, suicides or even accidents.
Then again, deaths from natural causes can be every bit as troubling, as some have been accompanied by gross misdiagnosis and maltreatment, including giving three dying inmates Tylenol and ibuprofen for their end-stage cancers.

Wexford and the $500,000 foot

gold foot This jury was ticked.
It’s the only explanation for the $510,000 Illinois jurors awarded Michael Beard, a prison inmate whose serious foot injury went untreated for years by Wexford Health Sources.
The jury awarded Beard $10,000 for his pain and suffering.
The half million? That was Wexford’s punishment.
“They came back with a verdict in less than two hours,” said Tom Plieura, Beard’s attorney.
Wexford is appealing.
Plieura, like most attorneys representing inmates in medical suits, was concerned jurors would not be able to get past the fact that Beard is a convict.
He needn’t have worried.
“It was a really brief summation,” said Plieura. “Just the highlights.” He also threw in a variation of a well-known saying: “You can judge the level of civilization by looking in a society’s prisons.”
Inside his Illinois prison cell, Beard had been seen by at least eight different doctors. For years, almost a1l referred him for a surgical consult.A bony growth on his Achilles tendon was growing, eventually rendering him unable to walk. His leg muscles atrophied.
Wexford repeatedly denied doctors’ requests for a referral to a specialist, documents showed.
Plieura, who is also a doctor, worked in a prison at one point. He understands that state medical care gets it wrong, too. He knows some prisoners lie.
But he points out that Illinois is paying Wexford $1.4 billion over the life of a 10-year contract, and taxpayers deserve to get their money’s worth.
“Who paid for this trial?,” Plieura said. “Taxpayers, when in fact we shouldn’t have been there if they had just paid for the surgery.”
Wexford also handles medical care for prison inmates in Florida, though its contract, and its problems here, pale in comparison to that of Corizon Inc, the Florida provider linked to terminal cancer victims treated with Tylenol and ibuprofen.
In February, after The Post wrote a series of stories about substandard inmate medical practices, the Florida Department of Corrections tossed the companies’ contracts, valued at more than a combined billion dollars. They will be rebid.
For a look at what The Post found: http://www.mypalmbeachpost.com/news/news/privatized-prison-health-care-in-florida-deadly-pa/nhWkX/?icmp=pbp_internallink_invitationbox_apr2013_pbpstubtomypbp_launch#f4be1578.3545241.735667