Humpday Hall of Shame: GEO Group aims for take-over of Texas state hospital

Welcome to The Hump Day Hall of Shame:  Every Wednesday we highlight the private prison industry’s influence on public policy through campaign contributions, lobbying, and the revolving door of public and private corrections.

In Texas, where both incarceration and immigrant detention rates soar, we’re accustomed to scrutinizing the state’s privatization efforts of these facilities.  However, there’s a new trend afoot in our state; privatizing state mental health facilities under the guise of cost savings to taxpayers, and Texas is turning over control of these facilities to companies that run for-profit prisons to provide care and safety to our state’s mentally ill population.

The state is currently considering a bid to privatize a state-run psychiatric facility by GEO Care, who promises to save the state millions of dollars a year.  

GEO Care is a part of GEO Group, the private prison corporation that has been at the helm of numerous privately operated Texas prison and youth detention facilities that have been the site of lawsuits, mismanagement, and canceled contracts.  Perhaps the most egregious example of the company’s failings took place at Coke County Juvenile Justice Center, which was closed in 2007 following reports of horrific conditions, sexual abuse and youth suicides under GEO Group’s management.

There has been little public information about the specifics of proposed site of the GEO Care bid, but sources inside the Department of State Health Services (DSHS) indicate that the company has proposed taking over the Kerrville State Hospital.

Our research found that the former Chief Operating Officer at Kerrville State Hospital, Stephen Anfinson, is currently employed by GEO Care as the Facility Administrator and CEO at Montgomery County Mental Health Treatment Facility which is currently being fined by the state for serious shortcomings in patient care, including unauthorized restraint and seclusion of patients, incomplete medical records, failure to show patient consent for medications and failure to report serious injuries to the state.

This week DSHS is conducting an internal review of GEO Care’s proposal, which will be utilized by the Health and Human Services Commission (HHSC) to make a recommendation to state leadership on whether or not to accept GEO Care’s bid.

Grassroots Leadership, along with twelve other mental health advocacy, civil liberty, and criminal justice reform groups has already sent a letter to state leadership calling on them to reject GEO Care’s bid.  We will keep you posted on ways to plug into future advocacy efforts on this proposal.