Inmates moved to unionized lockups in the north
Waco, Texas – Amid allegations involving contraband and improper sex relations between inmates and staff, the top management of the Sheriff's Office in this central Texas city will give the private operator of a troublesome 816-bed for-profit jail the benefit of the doubt.
Chief Deputy Matt Cawthon, a recently retired Texas Ranger, emphasized that LaSalle Corrections took over operation of the Jack Harwell Detention Center in early summer. “A lot of these people were employees who were hired in by the former contractor (CEC, Inc.).”
Sheriff Parnell McNamara, who retired as the chief Deputy U.S. Marshal in Charge of the Waco office of the Western District of Texas, said, “The minute LaSalle had any idea of this, they brought it to our attention, and arrests were made.” Sheriff McNamara gained election in 2012, defeating long-term Sheriff Larry Lynch in the Republican primary.
Both officials feel that the private jail operator, which contracts to run 16 lockups in Texas counties and Louisiana parishes, is clearing its ranks of substandard employees.
Three female employees are charged.
Sherry Lynn Haynes confessed that she brought in a pack of cigarettes she concealed in her bra and gave them to an inmate named Thomas Kyle Wilson. Tobacco products fetch a premium black market price in the lockup because all smoking materials are disallowed throughout the premises. Ms. Haynes is charged with a third degree felony, Prohibited Substance and Items in a Correctional Facility.
According to court papers, two other female corrections officers performed oral sex on inmates. The allegations were learned from a compact disk with 16 jail recordings of calls Inmate David Escobar placed to a personal phone belonging to Corrections Officer Regina Edwards, a former employee.
Escobar confessed that Ms. Edwards performed oral sex on him four times during their relationship at the privately-operated jail. She and Dorothy Pennington are charged with Improper Sexual Activity With a Person in Custody, a State Jail Felony considered a sex crime.
Inmates are unable to effectively give their consent to have sexual relations with licensed officials under whose supervision they are incarcerated.
Still employed as a correctional officer, Dorothy Pennington confessed that she performed oral sex on Inmate Juan Guzman while he was in his cell.
Former contractor CEC, Inc., lost a contract to house inmates of the Department of Homeland Security Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agency due to substandard plumbing and unhealthy conditions.
According to Deputy Cawthon, that is part of a trend in which the Bureau of Prisons and the Department of Justice have both moved prisoners housed in jails located in southern states to northern lockups staffed by unionized employees.
“Of the inmates that are held over by ICE, they have all been shipped north at a cost of triple ours to facilities staffed by union corrections officers,” he said.
The private operator is paid a fee of about $50 per day for each prisoner housed in privately-operated prisons. In northern states staffed by unionized employees, the rate is $150 per day, said Deputy Cawthon.