Thursday, December 4, 2008

Message to Indianapolis City County Council and Other Elected Officials: No Transfer of Annex Inmates to CCA/Jail #2

The Indianapolis Star reports a tentative settlement in a federal case that will result in the closing of the Jail Annex by February 1st. At that point, the inmates have to be transferred to another facility.

Between now and that date there will be a loud and clear message sent to county, state and federal elected and appointed officials that a transfer of inmates to Jail #2 run by Corrections Corporation of America is not an option. In fact, any expansion of CCA/Jail #2 should not be considered. Quite simply, CCA should not be rewarded with additional Marion County taxpayers' money given the substantial problems it has running Jail #2, problems CCA refuses to acknowledge or address. Our elected officials need to demand that CCA comply with the law and their privatization contract or suffer the consequences of not receiving additional tax money.

As a conservative, law-and-order Republican, dealing with the problems of jail privatization does not come naturally to me. I am generally in favor of privatization. I am certainly not a fan of people who commit crimes (albeit I would point out that most of the people in Jail #2 have not yet been convicted.) What it took for me to be active on this issue was, once I got into this, seeing never ending shocking-to-the-conscience revelations regarding what is going on at Jail #2 and, to a lesser degree, other privatized facilities. Here are a few of the problems that have been alleged in court and/or confirmed by scores and scores of former CCA/Jail #2 nurses, security guards, other employees, as well as inmates:

  • Inmates' medication not being started for weeks if not months after arriving at the facility
  • Inmates' medication being discontinued or changed to a cheaper alternative when they come in the facility, a violation of Indiana Jail Regulations
  • Inmates being given the wrong medication
  • Inmates being given expired medication to save money
  • Inmates being given other inmates' medication to save money
  • Inmates dying or being injured because they were not given medication or medical treatment
  • The CCA/Jail #2 doctor cutting out a round of medication for the inmates at Jail #2 because CCA did not want to replace staff that had previously passed out the medication
  • CCA refusing to properly staff Jail #2 as required by the privatization contract it has with the Marion County Sheriff
  • CCA requiring unarmed, untrained Nurses to escort inmates throughout Jail #2 (except during audits when the practice was temporarily stopped); Nurses were accused of a "work stoppage" when they expressed concerns over their safety
  • Numerous TV monitors at Jail #2 not working which was reported to the corporate office in Tennessee; nothing was done
  • Radios not working; again reported to the corporate office and no action was taken
  • Nurses being told to go see inmates without security
  • Inmates being examined in the presence of other inmates, a violation of HIPAA
  • Nurses and other employees being told to alter incident reports and other documents
  • Nurses being told to alter medication error reports
  • Failure to report medication errors as required by Indiana law
  • Medical intake numbers grossly inflated by CCA supervisors (it is unclear whether there might be additional compensation paid to CCA based on those inflated numbers)
  • CCA supervisors instructing employees to write incident reports in such a way that CCA employees won't be able to claim workers' compensation for injuries they suffered
  • Retaliation against nurses and other employees who dare report problems at the facility
  • CCA employees tearing up inmate grievances, throwing them away, losing them, refusing to process the forms or not making the forms available in the first place
  • CCA refusing to allow inmates to complete the required grievance process so CCA's attorneys can seek dismissal should those inmates sue the company
  • CCA paying several thousand dollars for a pro-correctional privatization group the American Correctional Association (ACA) to audit the Jail #2 facility (the audit in essentially a procedures and not a performance audit) which CCA could then spin to the public as proof Jail #2 is being run properly. During the 2005 audit of Jail #2, ACA supposedly talked with over 100 inmates, yet I have not been able to find any inmate who was personally interviewed or knows of anyone who was interviewed by ACA. Nurses and other CCA/Jail #2 staff who were clamoring to talk to ACA auditors about the above-mentioned problems at Jail #2 during the 2005 audit were not provided that opportunity. Not surprisingly, ACA found that CCA, which pays them hundreds of thousands if not millions of dollars for audits at CCA facilities nationwide, was doing a swell job at Jail #2.
  • Though being notified of all these problems, CCA's corporate office in Tennessee has done nothing to address any of them and has left the same warden, health services administrator and doctor (who is not even an M.D.) at Jail #2. However, CCA employees at Jail #2 who dared speak out about the problems and the need to fix them were pushed out the door.

These allegations, believe it or not, are only a small sampling of the problems at the Jail #2 facility. And the above allegations do not even begin to touch upon the substantial racial problems at Jail #2 alleged by numerous former CCA African-American employees at Jail #2.

Corporate arrogance is not a pretty sight. If CCA were to acknowledge problems with its running of Jail #2 and pledge to take remedial action to correct the problems, that would be one thing. CCA does nothing of the sort though. Instead the company pays a big law firm (Barnes & Thornburg, who else?) to aggressively go after anyone who dares challenge the company or attempts to expose what is going on in court. One would think that it would be cheaper to actually fix some of the problems at the jail so the company would not get sued so often. But, alas, that is not the CCA way.

Over the course of the next few months, the Indianapolis City County Council, Sheriff Frank Anderson, Mayor Greg Ballard, Public Safety Director Scott Newman, Congressman Andre Carson and other elected and appointed officials are going to get an earful about exactly what is going on with CCA's operation of Jail #2. They need to decide whether they really want more taxpayer money going to a company that steadfastly refuses to address problems at the facility, including those allegations outlined above. When the decision comes down to where to place the Annex inmates, rewarding CCA with more taxpayer dollars by sending those inmates to Jail #2 should not be an option. Taxpayers deserve better than the privatized jail service CCA has provided in its operation of Jail #2. It is time for CCA to be accountable to the public.


Diana Vice said...

I know something about corporate arrogance, and it's not something taxpayers should tolerate. Thanks for bringing this to our attention, Paul.

Paul K. Ogden said...

Thanks, Diana. It's funny that CCA is so focused on the legal, it seems pretty clueless regarding the larger political and public relations consequnces of what they are doing. People who witnessed what was going on at Jail #2 have every right to speak out on what they saw and experienced, and they are going to do exactly that. I have never seen so many people who
want to go public with what is going on at Jail #2. If the company does not think there is going to be political consequences for the failure to address problems at Jail #2, company officials are in for a big surprise.

Anonymous said...

I have often thought that VA Marion has plenty of facility for folks and they could use the money.

Patriot Paul said...

We've heard these outrageous health and civil rights violations ad nauseam and yet they still remain. Very unfortunate that few pay attention under the notion jail is jail; lock the door and throw away the key. I'll make you a challenge: Announce your press conference outside the jail and I'll bring some people I know with protest signs they won't forget. Two things grab attention on matters like this: bad publicity and lawsuits. Game?

Paul K. Ogden said...

Patriot Paul, that may well be happening in the not too distant future.. The lawsuits don't scare them as much as truthful publicity about what's going on. As long as they can keep things under wraps, they'll continue to get away with things. The day of reckoning is fast approaching. CCA/Jail #2 whistleblowers are not going to be silenced. I've never seen so many people want to speak out about the actions of a company than I've seen with CCA.

You're right though about people not doing anything about problems in the jails. The mentality you cite is much of the reason. But it affects all of us because we taxpayers get hit in the pocket. Plus just because you are arrested for a crime doesn't mean you should not be treated humanely.

Leslie Sourwine said...


If Indianapolis City Government allows the Annex Prisoners to be transferred to the Marion County Jail II, it’s time to start looking for replacement government leaders. Such a move should prove to the taxpayers of Indianapolis that their local government is not looking out for the taxpayer’s best interest. With the economy in the shape it’s in one would think taxpayer’s money would be better protected. Sending more inmates to the private corporate jail ran by Corrections Corporation of America would be a totally stupid move in my opinion. You didn’t ask for my opinion but I’m about to give you a mouthful.

In your list of complaints against Jail 2 (CCA) you didn’t mention lack of inmate supervision. One of the same listed reasons printed in the Star for moving the Annex Inmates to another facility. In June 2008 on my return trip from Indianapolis I received a phone call alerting me to a situation happening inside the jail. Apparently a few of the inmates needed a quick fix and were in the process of burning a hole in one of the windows so that someone on the outside could send drugs into the jail. Where were the guards when this was going on? Where did the inmates get the tools to burn holes in the glass windows? Who was going to provide the drugs?

While we’re discussing medications, did you know that medical employees who dispense the medications crush the pills given to the inmates? I find that to be a curious situation since our organization, The Police Complaint Center has received so many complaints from people who make the very same accusations as you do against CCA. In fact I received another last week from a man who had adverse affects (vomiting blood, and dizziness) from the crushed pills he received. He stated he was told the next day by a jail employee that he received someone else’s medication. Crushing the pills is an excellent way to prevent the inmates from knowing for certain they are receiving the correct medications. Only a corporation set on getting the biggest bang for the buck would allow something like that to take place.

In addition to receiving the wrong medications, did you know that some of the inmates have filed complaints saying that medical personnel give the inmates a dose of medication (not necessarily their own) and turn around giving another dose a hour to two later. It seems like this may happen quite often just before the inmates have a court hearing. Do you suppose this is done to make them docile or oblivious to what is actually taking place inside the court room?

Another complaint we received was from a man who worked in the kitchen under the supervision of Armark, CCA’s food service provider. He received a hair cut at the jail and developed an infection on his scalp afterwards. Even though there was blood and pus seeping from his head Armark still allowed him to work in the kitchen and the “quack” who everyone refers to as “doctor” but isn’t a real doctor refused to give the inmate antibiotics to clear up the infection. This same inmate had a pace maker that needed recharging. In spite of being inside this private jail for six months the not a real “doctor” did not send the inmate to have the pace maker taken care of nor did he prescribe the inmate’s heart medication.

Moving on with a more positive note you have to give Armark and CCA credit for supplying inmates with additional protein whether they asked for it or not. Our clients brought it to our attention that when they received their trays they discovered hundreds of fruit flies crawling in and over the food. Our organization did a FOIA request for the menus for the food served to CCA inmates. At first glance one may think the company would go broke serving all those gourmet meals to the inmates. Of course there was no mention of the extra protein that was provided. I would like to see some surprise inspections during meal times. CCA should receive all the credit they have coming to them for the quality of food they allow to be provided to the inmates.

In addition to the medications and food provided by CCA, are you aware of the heating and cooling system inside that private facility? The reason I ask is because last December there was apparently a heating problem. The problem was that there was no heat! Although jail supervisors assured our organization that the inmates would be provided extra blankets until the situation was fixed we learned later this was not so. The odd thing is the heating problem existed in only one unit. Outside the door of the effected unit there was plenty of heat. I found out later while talking to a CCA employee about problems with the cooling system that jail employees are able to manipulate the temperatures of different areas of the jail using the computer. What that means is that if someone wanted to they could turn the heat and or air off in one of the units but leave it on in the hallway outside the unit. Now imagine this; the unit that was without heat in December and without air in early summer just happened to house several of your clients that were named in the lawsuit against CCA. Is it possible that these incidents were some form of retaliation against the inmates who filed complaints as well as were named in the lawsuit?

I could write a book on the complaints we received from inmates housed at CCA but the bottom line is this; how long will it take the citizens of Indianapolis to wake up? Common sense tells you that it is more cost effective to practice preventive medicine. Inmates who are denied medical care develop more serious and costly illnesses. Proper nutritious food is the backbone to good health, and good health results in less medical problems. In addition, sanitary and safe environments prevent unnecessary infections and accidents, again, resulting in less medical problems.

The prison industry is one of the fastest growing industries in the United States. Inmates are a commodity paid for by the taxpayers. When lawsuits are levied against the city because an inmate dies or is permanently disabled while in the care of CCA, the cost goes to the taxpayer. It is up to the taxpayer to demand accountability from their government leaders and from this greedy corporation, CCA. Every time an inmate is abused or denied medical care while in custody it is the city government that is allowing tax payers dollars to be wasted. CCA is not going to live up to the contract they signed with the city of Indianapolis because they are arrogant and have gotten away with abusing and neglecting the human beings housed in their facilities. The only way to bring this arrogant corporation to heel is to quit giving CCA more prisoners and simply shut them down. The people in Indianapolis need to shout loud and clear so that every state and local government employee hears. It is time to quit wasting taxpayer’s hard earned money. Run the real criminal “CCA” out of town.