inattention to properly calibrating dose-sensitive medications, especially anti-epileptics. “We found several instances in which PNA failed to monitor inmates on these types of medications, even when inmates reported experiencing side effects:’ the report states. In one case, blood testing showed that an inmate with a seizure disorder did not have enough of the anti-seizure drug to be effective. The PNA medical staff did nothing, and seven days later the inmate attempted suicide and then suffered a seizure. “Even with all the attention from medical staff due to his suicide attempt, his seizure medication blood level was not measured until four days” later, the report says. No such authoritative report has been done for the Pecos prison. But in interviews and correspondence, prisoners, their relatives, attorneys and immigrant rights advocates describe a facility overrun with corruption and dangerous cost-cutting measures. Prisoners writing to the Observer have made allegations ranging from physical abuse to tacit arrangements between guards and prisoners to traffic drugs and other contraband inside the facility. \(GEO Group A prisoner we’ll call Juan, who asked that his real name not be used for fear of retribution, describes an environment of fear where hardened criminals serving long sentences live side by side with men who are there solely for crossing the border illegally. Juan says that prisoners in the jail are divided into groups based on their home state in Mexico with the tacit approval of the guards and the warden. Prisoners who have money and can buy influence and authority run these groups. These bosses dole out punishments and determine with the guards who gets sent to the punishment cell, Juan says. “We are threatened and beaten if we complain. While [the prison bosses] can have cell phones and other benefits that are forbidden:’ Another prisoner, Josewho also asked that his name be changedwrites that he has hepatitis. “I begged for medicine and they sent me a bottle that was unsealed and only half full,” Jose writes. “I haven’t received treatment for my hepatitis since December 2008.” “The problem with Reeves is that there are no medical services,” says Graciela Arredondo, the mother of a man who served part of his sentence at Reeves. “They won’t bring a doctor if you are sick. They don’t want to spend the money, but these are human beings and they deserve medical services.” After the riots in December and January, the ACLU of Texas called on the Department of Justice’s Office of the Inspector General to investigate the prisoners’ charges. This wouldn’t be the first time the OIG was asked to look into reports of abuse at the Reeves facility. In 2006, an investigation resulted in the arrests of five employees at the jail for smuggling drugs into the facility and having sex with inmates. Because it hasn’t received an answer from the OIG, the ACLU is starting its own investigation. “Riots are relatively rare, and are an indicator of serious problems at a facility,” says Lisa Graybill, legal director for the ACLU of Texas. “We continue to receive complaints that the Bureau of Prisons and its contractors, GEO and Physicians Network Association, are systemically failing to address life-threatening and chronic medical conditions of detainees.” None of this is surprising to longtime prison activist Bob Libal, co-coordinator of Grassroots Leadership, an Austin nonprofit that fights private prisons. “Conditions at GEO facilities have been horrendous, and it stretches across every type of facility,” says Libal. “It’s case after case after case. Whether Coke County, Val Verde, Dickens County, Reeves, Pearsall, it’s one horrendous thing after another:’ In 2007, the Texas Youth Commission removed 197 youths from GEO Group’s Coke County Juvenile Justice Center after inspectors found deplorable conditions including filthy cells that reeked of feces and urine, insects in the food, and inmates only being allowed to shower and brush their teeth every few days. A year before, the family of 23year-old LeTisha Tapia sued GEO Group after Tapia killed herself at the Val Verde County Jail, which the company runs. Tapia had told her family that she was raped, beaten, sexually humiliated and deprived of psychological and medical treatment in retaliation for telling the warden about guards allowing inmates to have sex with each other. The suit was settled out of court. In the past two years, the state of Idaho has pulled out of contracts at two GEO-operated jailsthe Dickens County Correctional Center, near Spur, and the Bill Clayton Detention Center in Littletonciting chronic understaffing, a lack of required treatment programs, and suicides linked to squalid conditions. In a lawsuit set to go to trial in March, two detainees at the GEO-run South Texas Detention Complex in Pearsall claim that the company “intentionally and systematically violates the rights of mentally disabled detainees:’ Echoing the Reeves County allegations, both of the plaintiffs, Miroslava RodriguezGrava and Isaias Vasques Cisneros de Jesus, allege that instead of treating them for their mental disabilities, GEO put them in segregation for extended periods of time. “I think that any time you insert profit into the equation that care and also the rehabilitative elements of corrections goes out the window,” said Libal. “They try to do things as cheap as possible. You get what you’re paying for in a lot of ways:’ The Pecos prison, a remote, austere correctional campus flanked by farmland and a weirdly out-of-place cemetery, sprawls across several acres a few hundred yards from Interstate 3o. To travelers zipping by at 8o mph, the facility is little more than a blur of barbed wire and guard towers. But to the people of Reeves County \(population “We’ll see who has control in a bit,” one inmate told a guard. 18 THE TEXAS OBSERVER OCTOBER 2, 2009
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