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PLN editor Paul Wright quoted in article re abuses at GEO Group prisons

KRGV Channel 5, Jan. 1, 2008. http://www.newschannel5.tv/2008/11/19/1001493/G...
PLN editor Paul Wright quoted in article re abuses at GEO Group prisons - KRGV Channel 5 2008

Nov. 19, 2008

News Channel 5 KRGV

Investigation shows GEO groups has history of prisoner abuse

WILLACY COUNTY - The GEO group, the prison corporation at the center of the indictments has a long history filled with allegations of prisoner abuse. The abuse has sometimes even turned deadly.

A former corrections officer who did not want to be identified says she was on-duty at the Willacy State Jail in 2001 when Gregorio De La Rosa, Jr. was beaten to death by fellow inmates. She says he was bloody and not very responsive after the incident.

De La Rosa died just four days before his release date. His family sued the prison owner at that time, the GEO group known then as Wackenhut. The family won a $47 million settlement.

The former corrections officer says De La Rosa's incident was not a result of an incompetent staff since the jail was fully staffed. She was employed there for more than six years and says it was a good company to work for. However, not everyone agrees.

Paul Wright, editor of Prison Legal News, a prison watchdog group, says that the GEO Group has a bad reputation for a reason.

"They gain their contracts through lobbying and cronyism and political favoritism," Wright said. "They make their profits once they have the contracts through short staffing their facilities and underpaying their staff."

Wright says the GEO runs prisons full of problems.

"Very high incidents of escapes, assaults, murders, sexual assaults and riots as well," he said.

However, the former corrections officer of the jail says that there's always going to be riots and assaults in a prison setting. She says those incidents don't make it to the news because they are kept in-house.

Lawmakers are calling for a review of all GEO's contracts in Texas, though they claim it has nothing to do with the Willacy County Indictments, which accuse the Vice President of the U.S., Dick Cheney of wrong doing since he owns a stock in company connected to the GEO group.