On February 23rd, Corrections Corporation of America (CCA) settled a lawsuit brought by a former nurse at the Idaho Correctional Center (ICC) named Michelle Pierce, who claimed she had been fired in retaliation for reporting sexual harassment and abuse by her colleagues. The terms of the settlement were not disclosed.
Pierce’s disturbing story is one of several to have come out in the wake of Idaho’s decision to take back control of the facility last year. Under CCA’s watch, ICC was nicknamed “gladiator school” for its high levels of violence. When Idaho began the process of transitioning the facility back to the state last year, investigators and three whistleblowers revealed that IDOC employees had potentially manipulated prisoner medical records to cover up neglect and mismanagement that took place while it was still under CCA’s control. Pierce’s story provides an additional perspective on the atmosphere permitted, and sometimes encouraged, by CCA leadership within ICC.
Pierce was hired as a Licensed Practical Nurse at ICC in 2012 when CCA was running the facility. Her primary job was to run the medication cart, conducting rounds in the housing units to distribute prescriptions to prisoners. Guards were required to accompany her on those rounds as a safety measure.
On the night of September 13, 2012, Pierce went into a housing unit to collect “kites,” which are forms that prisoners fill out when they want to see medical staff or report a health issue. Pierce encountered three male CO’s in the unit: Officers Spurgess, Vasquez and Omerevich. Continue reading
Ohio’s prison system is facing a severe overcrowding crisis. With facilities hovering around 130% capacity, prison chief Gary Mohr considered declaring an overcrowding emergency for the first time in the state’s history. This would have granted early release to prisoners nearing the end of their sentences, but those plans were inexplicably scuttled less than a month ago.
It was unclear what the alternative strategy would be until Governor John Kasich released his budget proposal last week.
Kasich’s proposal calls for increasing the Department of Rehabilitation and Correction (ODRC) budget from $1.62 billion to $1.72 billion by 2017. It also doubles the budget for prisoner addiction services and commits $58 million to pursuing sentencing alternatives for low-level, nonviolent offenders over the next two years.
But without plans or programs in motion to immediately reduce the number of people behind bars in Ohio, the ODRC’s new money will likely be channeled into increasing staff levels and, potentially, signing new contracts with private prison companies to reduce the burden on state facilities. Continue reading
A new report by New York City’s Department of Investigation found rampant security violations on Rikers Island that allowed corrections officers and staff to sell contraband such as weapons, alcohol and narcotics to inmates for a sizable profit. DOI has been investigating the Department of Corrections since early January and plans to release a full report by the end of the year.
Security is so lax and inconsistent at Rikers facilities that a high schooler could get through the checkpoints without a problem. Smuggling vodka in a Poland Springs bottle? That’s the oldest trick in the book! But if you’re feeling lazy, lying works, too: one undercover investigator was able to smuggle contraband past a checkpoint by telling the security guard he had already emptied his pockets and didn’t need to do it again.
Here’s how the DOI described the ease with which CO’s and staff could make it through security with prohibited items: Continue reading
There has been a flurry of activity surrounding the NYC Department of Corrections and Rikers Island after a series of horrendous reports exposing subhuman conditions, abuse and corruption at the city’s largest jail. But I am unconvinced that the situation is moving in the right direction.
The top uniformed official at the Department of Corrections, William Clemons, resigned at the end of October. Clemons was one of two men to have been promoted by DOC Commissioner Joseph Ponte after corrections staff fudged statistics on jail fights to make it look like the number of violent incidents were down on his watch, when in fact they just weren’t making their way into the reports. (The other was Turhan Gumusdere, who Ponte promoted to become the warden of the Anna M. Kross Center on Rikers.)
Ponte, who was appointed by de Blasio and is said to be a ‘reformer,’ stood by the promotions even after the public became aware that the performance reports at their foundation were completely fraudulent. It was only after the department came under fire for conditions at Rikers that Clemons tendered his resignation. Two of Clemons’ deputies — Joandrea Davis and Gregory McLaughlan — resigned along with him. Continue reading
I knew Corrections Corporation of America (CCA) had a strong presence in Arizona, but until last night’s Attorney General debate, I didn’t know the extent to which it was involved in this year’s election:
The candidates also sparred over [Republican Mark] Brnovich’s lobbying on behalf of private prisons. [Democrat Felicia] Rotellini cited his efforts to kill legislation that would ban companies from bringing violent criminals into Arizona from other states.
“Mr. Brnovich can’t get around the fact that his judgment was such that for a profit, for his own economic profit, he thought it was better to kill a piece of legislation that would (block) killers, rapists, into the state of Arizona,” she said.
Brnovich defended private prisons, saying they free up state prison construction money for other uses.
“I have spent most of my career putting people in prison, and yes I’ve worked for the Corrections Corporation of American to keep people there,” he said. This isn’t a partisan issue. Both Democratic and Republican governors have used private prisons in order to incarcerate individuals.”
He attacked Rotellini for taking contributions from Dennis DeConcini, who was on Corrections Corporations’ board until May.
“She’s comfortable taking money from the private prisons but now she wants to criticize Arizona for using them,” he said.
“That’s making a big assumption, that simply because I get a contribution from somebody that means I’m somehow going to be beholden to them,” Rotellini said while noting that she has thousands of contributors.
You can watch the debate from Arizona’s PBS affiliate. Continue reading
While some Missouri cops were busy killing an unarmed black teenager, brutalizing community members and threatening journalists in Ferguson, a deputy police officer on the other side of the state was feeding pizzas laced with pepper spray to prisoners at the Franklin County Jail.
The deputy, who has not been named, was originally placed on paid leave but then abruptly resigned pending a disciplinary hearing after four inmates accused him of offering them the pizza, which caused them to vomit, suffer severe mouth and stomach pains, and sent one to the hospital.
The deputy’s story has got to be one of the stupidest things I’ve ever heard, claiming an inmate stole the pizza from a janitor’s closet where he had been innocently testing pepper spray cans in a sink. Continue reading
Back in July, New Mexico’s KRQE News reported that officials in Bernalillo County were “scrambling to resurrect a long-dormant investigation into why a group of jail inmates on house arrest was sent to the upscale South Valley homes of Bernalillo County Commissioner Art De La Cruz and some of his friends with weed whackers, rakes and hedge trimmers to do some clean-up work.”
Bernalillo officials were also supposed to examine why this ‘clean team’ spent so much time in Cruz’s district as compared to others in the state. According to KRQE, the clean team spent “more than 70 percent of its work time in Da La Cruz’s district, one of five in the county, during the past year.”
This was not the first time De La Cruz has been alleged to have abused his position and, unsurprisingly, he vehemently denied the accusations outright. He specifically claimed that “No one (from the clean team) ever stepped on my property.” Continue reading