The Dirty 30 | #4 - A Disturbing Culture of Staff Misconduct

In 2013, Corrections Corporation of America is "celebrating" its thirtieth anniversary.  We believe there is nothing to celebrate about 30 years of profiting off of incarceration.  In response Grassroots Leadership and Public Safety and Justice Campaign published "The Dirty Thirty: Nothing to Celebrate About Thirty Years of Corrections Corporation of America," a list of thirty stories that exhibit the most troubling aspects of the company's history.  Each week we'll highlight one of these stories.  Click here to view the full report.  Printed copies are available in limited quanitity.  For more information please contact Kymberlie Quong Charles.

Given Corrections Corporation of America’s cost-cutting methods of not providing adequate salaries and training to its employees, it is unsurprising that instances of gross misconduct are well documented across the company’s facilities. Allegations of violence, sexual abuse, incompetence and mistreatment have become endemic to CCA’s facilities, as have numerous charges of CCA employees using prisoners for profiteering, from cases of drug trafficking to outright theft. Following several allegations of missing cash from people incarcerated at CCA’s Hernando County Jail in Florida, an investigation revealed that Jeffrey S. Hodges, the booking officer at the facility, had been pocketing incoming prisoners’ money, giving them significantly lower sums upon their release. Hodges pleaded guilty in March 2006 to two counts of grand theft, was placed on probation for 18 months, and ordered to pay back the $750 he had stolen from two prisoners.[1]

The involvement of CCA employees in selling drugs to prisoners is far too common. In December 1996, more than 200 federal agents and local law enforcement officials stormed the Silverdale Detention Facilities in Tennessee as part of an 18-month undercover investigation into drug trafficking at the jail. Although it was alleged that CCA management had been tipped off and were able to swiftly clean up the facility, the raid resulted in the conviction of nine people.[2] Raids have continued at Silverdale, with the warden and security chief fired over further allegations of illegal drug use and the escape of two prisoners in November 2002, and an officer charged with smuggling in marijuana in October 2011.[3]

These are not isolated instances confined to only a few of CCA’s facilities, but are part of a much wider problem rooted in private corrections. “Low pay for guards and cost-cutting strategies are part of the problem”, comments Prison Life editor Richard Stratton. “It’s a question of training of the guards and just general seriousness of how they take the job.”[4] In September 2001, a former guard at the Tulsa Jail was found attempting to smuggle methamphetamine to a prisoner [5] while, at the same jail in 2002, CCA fired a new employee after she was arrested for possession of cocaine.[6] Meanwhile, at CCA’s Correctional Treatment Facility in Washington, D.C. – originally used for prisoners with substance-abuse problems – an FBI sting operation indicted four guards in November 2002 on charges that they smuggled drugs, pagers, and cash to prisoners in exchange for bribes.

Most shocking are the disturbing levels to which CCA staff have sunk in their degrading treatment of people incarcerated at their facilities. In 2006 at CCA’s Citrus County Jail in Florida, four prisoners filed suit against CCA, alleging that officers had urinated and placed faecal matter in their food and drinks on multiple occasions. CCA admitted that urine had been mixed into juice served to people incarcerated at the jail and two CCA guards, Kevin Hessler and Alexander Diaz, and a supervisor, Charles Mulligan, were fired in connection with the allegations.[7] One of many instances of prisoner sexual abuse was at CCA’s T. Don Hutto facility in Texas, where CCA employee Donald Charles Dunn was found guilty of sexually abusing at least 8 female immigrant detainees while transporting them in a van alone, in violation of ICE policy. Dunn was sentenced to 10 months in federal prison. Unfortunately CCA has done little to improve its facilities, and violence, drug use, and mismanagement persist on a large scale. On the contrary, in 2012, CCA’s board of directors successfully urged shareholders to vote against a resolution requiring the company to report on what it was doing to reduce the incidents of rape and sexual abuse in its facilities.[8] The horrific instances of sexual abuse that have come out of CCA’s facilities - as we detail at Hutto [#22] and Otter Creek [#28] - only serve to illustrate the extent to which for-profit companies will go to hide human rights violations and reject accountability.

  1. Jonathan Abel, “Ex-guard pleads guilty to 2 jail thefts,” St. Petersburg Times, March 9, 2006.
  2. Chris Joyner, “Contraband at Silverdale,” Chattanooga Times Free Press, nd.
  3. Kate Harrison, “Silverdale Detention Facility jailer fired after being charged with trying to smuggle marijuana to inmate,” Times Free Press, October 5, 2011.
  4. Chris Joyner, “Contraband at Silverdale,” Chattanooga Times Free Press, nd.
  5. David Harper, “Ex-Jailer Guilty in Drug Sale,” Tulsa World, December 5, 2001.
  6. “CCA Worker Fired After Drug Arrest,” Tulsa World, September 21, 2002, p. A20.
  7. Kelli Kennedy, “Human Waste Put in Food, Ex-Inmates Claim,” Associated Press, March 11, 2006.
  8. Jonathan Meador, “CCA Board Votes Down Resolution on Reporting Rape, Sexual Abuse Statistics,” Nashville Scene, May 10, 2012.