Public perception of CoreCivic differs from the company’s view of itself

Alexis Young

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Prison yard.Getty images.

By Alexis Young / NewsBreak Pinal County, AZ

Complaints and accusations against CoreCivic are numerous and stem from a variety of perspectives; Department of Homeland Security, stockholders, employees and detainees. However CoreCivic’s revenue remains 1.981 billion and the company continues to win new contracts like one for La Palma Correctional Center in Eloy, AZ. 

After an interview request fulfilled by email, CoreCivic Spokesman Ryan Gustin wrote that, “quite a bit of information about our company is being shared by special interest groups that is wrong and politically motivated, resulting in some people reaching misguided conclusions about what we do.”

Despite critiques from Department of Homeland Security last year and Department of Justice officials in 2016, Gustin maintains that 40 years of government partnerships and “our unprecedented commitment to robust reentry programing and support for public policies that reduce recidivism” is a testament to CoreCivic’s professionalism. 

Prison Legal News quoted Deputy General Attorney Sally Yates’ and the Department of Justice’s defamatory stances on private, for-profit prisons. 

“‘Time has shown the [private prisons] compare poorly to our own Bureau facilities. They simply do not provide the same level of correctional services, programs, and resources,” Yates said in making the announcement. Private prisons “do not save substantially on costs; and as noted in a recent report by the Department’s Office of Inspector General, they do not maintain the same level of safety and security.’”

This statement was made just five days before stockholders filed the class action suits. That perspective of private prisons is in direct opposition of what CoreCivic claims to do and who they claim to be.

In a CoreCivic pdf called, “What We Do, What We DON’T Do” — that can be found on their website — CoreCivic outlines the specific corrections and managerial practices in and outside the agency’s tool kit. However, many of the claims made in the pdf have correlating accusations that suggest the opposite of stances CoreCivic takes. The antithesis of Deputy General Attorney Yates’ comment can be found in the document as well. 

“We save taxpayer dollars. An industry-supported, peer-reviewed study published by the Independent Institute found that companies like ours generate from 12% to 58% in long-run taxpayer savings without sacrificing the quality of service.”

The quote above was pulled from the, “What We Do” page but the “What we DON’T do” page contradicts several accusations from detainees and employees.

“We don’t cut corners on care, staff or training, which meets, and in many cases exceeds, our government counterpart’s standards.”

On October 23, 2021, The Intercept published, “ICE review of immigrant’s suicide finds falsified documents, neglect and improper confinement.” Efrain Romero de la Rosa was being detained in CoreCivic and ICE’s Stewart Detention Center in Georgia. Romero de la Rosa was a man diagnosed schizophrenia who later completed suicide after his third stint in solidatry confinement for 21 days in July 2018. According to The Intercept, Stewart Detention Center is the “deadliest immigration jail” with eight detainees dying since 2017.

Romero de la Rosa was aware of his diagnoses prior to his time at Stewart Detention Center and had been in conversation with the facilities’ medical personnel about auditory hallucinations and medication. Despite this, The Intercept says Romero de la Rosa was segregated for making sexual advances to guards and suicide watch. It’s reported that during one of those stints, Romero de la Rosa wasn’t taken for a shower in 15 days despite rules that entitle detainees to three showers a week. 

In an emailed quote CoreCivic spokesperson Ryan Gustin wrote that CoreCivic did not, “provide medical or mental healthcare services or staffing at Stewart Detention Center” before November 2018. 

According to Gustin, “CoreCivic staff at Stewart did not make medical or mental health treatment determinations and were trained to refer all detainee health or medical concerns, whether routine or acute, to facility medical staff for evaluation, triage and treatment.”

“We don’t require immigration detainees to work. All work programs at our ICE detention facilities are completely voluntary and operated in full compliance with ICE standards, including federally established minimum wage rates for detainee volunteer labor.”

In another class action suit filed on May 31, 2017, Sylvester Owino and Jonathan Gomez (detained at Otay Mesa Facility) sued CoreCivic for forced labor and violation of the trafficking victims protection act, forced labor and violation of the California trafficking victims protection act, unfair competition, violations of the California labor code, violation of California industrial welfare commission orders, negligence and unjust enrichment. 

Court documents said detainees “were engaged, suffered and permitted to work by CoreCivc at, without limitation, the Otay Facility,” where CoreCivic controlled “wages, hours and working conditions.” 

Plaintiffs allege that they were made to do everything from cleaning medical staff offices, landscaping and barber services to clerical work for CoreCivic and preparing catered meals for law enforcement.

“We don’t provide housing for any children who aren’t under the supervision of a parent.”

In January 2018, Indiana’s South Bend Tribune published, “CoreCivic had a history of complaints and violations.” The article briefly narrated several accusations against CoreCivic from all over the country. At the time, Lecanto, Florida’s Citrus County Detention Facility came under fire after a mentally disabled minor sued alleging improper placement in quarters with convicted criminals who repeaedly raped the minor. 

The Citrus County Chronicle reported that, “a CoreCivic officer, who screened the boy at his intake for risks of sexual victimization, did not ask the necessary questions to determine how and where to house the boy.” 

According to the article, the minor was detained from October 3, 2016 to October 5. The sex-assult report alleges rape from at least one man who was detained with fellow gang members, though they should have been separated. The minor was then prevented from seeing his mother. The Chronicle said the mother was not informed of the assaults until she continued to press the issue.

Who is right

Newsbreak understands that there are three sides to every story; side ‘A’, side ‘B’ and the truth. Unfortunately, the size of the entities in question and the gravity of the situation at hand can cast an almost subjective glow on the truth. In this instance, side ‘A’ was CoreCivic’s perception of itself and side ‘B’ is public perception of the private prison company.

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I found an unexpected comfort and interest in journalism. From storytelling to holding the powerful accountable to the more technical parts of the job, most all of it interests me. I’m using that interest to ignite lights that will illuminate truth.

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