The company that Watkins Abbitt is doing work for in the General Assembly has quite a history of abuse, neglect and questionable human rights practices. Just this past weekend, there was another riot at a Geo facility in Texas. The complaint continues to be that the company does not provide medical care to their ‘guests’.
In December, two things happened around this story. In Farmville, an inmate at Piedmont Regional Jail was ignored (according to some accounts) when he complained of pain and sickness. If he was given medical attention, it must have been the worst medical care in history. The other event in December was a riot at a Geo Group-owned facility in Reeves County Texas.
This subject became of interest to me when I discovered that Geo Group is a contributor to the campaigns of both Clarke Hogan and Watkins Abbitt. When I went and looked at who the Geo Group is, I uncovered the underpinnings of some very suspect business being done by the People’s House. Clarke Hogan, among others, mostly Republican, have received contributions from Geo Group as well. Geo Group was formerly known as Wackenhut Corrections.
Geo Group has installations all over the world. England, South Africa, America primarily. The Reeves County facility in Texas has been the site of two riots in two months, both spurred on by complaints of inadequate medical care, the same complaint that is now being leveled in Farmville’s Piedmont Regional Jail. There have been quite a few news reports about private prisons in the last year. This New York Times article last fall was quite disgusting. There has been a lot of coverage of an incident in which an inmate with advanced spinal cancer was repeatedly given Tylenol until he recently died. Both the Washington Post and New York Times have done articles concerning the private prison industry and the incident in Farmville in December, as well as the death less than two years ago in the same facility.
As I mentioned in my previous article about this subject, Delegate Watkins Abbitt (I-Appomattox) has filed a bill in the House of Delegates to allow the training of the personnel that will staff the new facility in Farmville, at a training facility owned by the Commonwealth, in Lynchburg.
Something here is starting to fit together, but not all the pieces are there yet. Dr. Edward Gordon, Farmville area physician and Medical Director of the Piedmont Jail, is also a member of the Farmville Town Council. Gerald Spates, Town Manager for Farmville, has referred all questions about the newer facility to Immigration Centers of America – Farmville, LLC’s partner, Russell Harper, a partner in the venture. (no web page)
Let’s pretend for a moment that we don’t know anything about a lot of this, which is not far from the truth. Incidents from all over the country and one thing about these incidents is that they all involve accusations of poor or non-existent medical care. Do the Medical Directors of these facilities get paid whether the medical care is delivered at all?
ICE is investigating the death in December in Farmville. ICAF does not have a contract for inmates yet from the Federal Government. Many organizations are looking at this situation, and although face-to-face interviews with inmates wasn’t possible, telephone interviews are.
Several detainees interviewed by telephone last week said that in the two weeks before Thanksgiving, Mr. Newbrough’s back pain grew so bad that he began sobbing through the night, and some in the 90-man unit took turns making him hot compresses. By the Sunday before Thanksgiving, he was desperate, two detainees said, and banged at the door of the unit’s lunchroom, yelling for help. They said by the time guards responded, he was seated at a table.
“They told him to get up, and he said he couldn’t get up because he was in a lot of pain,” said Salvador Alberto Rivas, who identified himself as Mr. Newbrough’s bunk mate, awaiting deportation to El Salvador. “Because of the pain, he started crying, and he was trying to tell them he had put in requests for medical and didn’t get any. And then one of the guards threw him to the floor.”
“They drag him by his leg, in front of about 30 people,” said another detainee, who gave his name only as Jose for fear of retaliation, adding that many witnesses had since been transferred to other jails or deported.
“We didn’t know that he was dying,” added Jose, who wrote about the case in a letter published online by a Spanish weekly. “They took him to the hole. He was yelling for help in the hole, too.”
That information, he said, came from a detainee in the isolation section at the same time, but since deported, who was so upset by Mr. Newbrough’s death that he left his name and alien registration number — Rene Cordoba Palma, No. 088424581 — in case anyone wanted his testimony.
Look, I am as law abiding as the next person, so I do not mind that people get put in jail if they did something wrong. But I can tell you from personal experience that one of the first things ignored in jail is whether you might have a need for medication or medical care. If we as a country want to continue this horrible exercise in mistreatment and apathy while people die due to withholding even basic medical care, then I will continue to complain about it.
However, if we want to make a new way, and treat people in a humane fashion that doesn’t violate their rights, I will applaud loudly and long. It’s not about ideology, it’s about the treatment of our fellow human beings, even those who have gone astray. I do not want to see this continue, therefore I am fighting back against it.
Watkins Abbitt has no business doing the dirty work of the Geo Group, or any other contributor. If he takes money from someone, and there is an expectation of a return to the contributor, then that’s called selling influence.
Clarke Hogan, good buddy of Abbitt, also has no business taking money from a company that regularly violates or violated the human rights of those in custody. Actually, I can’t figure out why Abbitt introduced this bill, when the immigrant facility in question is in Hogan’s district. Maybe Abbitt is taking the heat on this one for his good friend.
Next: Why does the Town of Farmville want this prison so bad? Why does the Town of Farmville refuse to answer questions about this facility, even though it is their contract with ICE? Why does the Town of Farmville’s Police Chief tell a group of demonstrators that he had nothing to do with a demonstration permit? And finally, why Is the ACLU telling the Town of Farmville to change its ordinances concerning demonstrations? All that and more in the next installment.