KSAT - San Antonio exposé: “For private prison corporations, every person that’s in prison is a dollar sign.”

Yesterday, KSAT - San Antonio ran the story, Privately run prisons profit from detainees, featuring Grassroots Leadership’s Executive Director, Bob Libal.

Steve Spriester’s Defenders Investigation sought to talk with those who question whether it’s a good idea to profit from prisoners while raking in taxpayer money. Spriester explained, “There are more than 50 private prisons that can be found in every part of the state-- prisons that will house detainees for a fee, a formula that has built a $1 billion industry."

Grassroots Leadership ED Bob Libal added, "For private prison corporations, every person that's in prison is a dollar sign. Rehabilitation is bad for business; a shrinking prison population hurts the bottom line."

He pinpointed GEO Group as the big private prison player in South Texas, the company that is banking off a combined 2,592 beds at two facilities that bring in more than $114 million per year.

Additionally, Spriester interviewed a former GEO Group employee who worked in the South Texas Detention Facility in Pearsall for two years. Afraid to use her full name due to fear of GEO Group, Christy explained that she witnessed firsthand how the private prison company cut corners that placed both employees’ and detainees’ safety at risk — faulty equipment, not enough staff, inmate on inmate fights where no reports were ever filed.”

The GEO Group responded with a statement last night, which, not surprisingly, denied any allegations that the company fails to provide safe and secure environments in their facilities. And, per the usual, their statement fails to align with reality. The truth is GEO Group's record in Texas is appalling. A few examples: 

  • ​Coke County Juvenile Justice Center - In 2007, state officials shut down the Coke County Juvenile Justice Center due to the unsafe and unsanitary conditions under GEO Group operation.  A surprise state audit found that “the facility was in an advanced state of disrepair and rehabilitation and other programs weren't being pursued, leaving detainees mostly constrained.”
  • Reeves County Detention Center - In 2009, prisoners at GEO-operated Reeves County Detention Center rioted over issues at the facility that reportedly included poor quality of health care and multiple prisoner deaths.  The riot left the prison building heavily damaged, resulting in 700 prisoners having to sleep in tents.

  • Tragic death of Scot Noble Payne - In 2007, Scot Noble Payne, 43, committed suicide in a GEO Group-run Texas facility.  Payne had been transferred far from his home in Idaho to be housed in Texas as part of Idaho’s policy of easing state prison overcrowding issues.  Investigations into Payne’s death exposed squalid conditions at the prison.  The Idaho Department of Corrections’ health care director called Payne’s cell “unacceptable” and the rest of the facility “beyond repair.”

And the list goes on. Fortunately, folks like Steve Spriester are shining the spotlight on private prisons in Texas. We're confident people will see right through GEO Group's facade and think twice about an industry that has built a fortune on locking people up.