Sunday, August 26, 2007

Update: Four jail illnesses in Val Verde appear unrelated

Or so the Houston Chronicle reports
. But despite the fact that the law requires an autopsy when someone dies in custody, the body of the Honduran migrant who died was quickly embalmed and shipped back to Honduras. Perhaps that is permissible when dealing with "illegal aliens," as migrant workers are now labeled.

We are told that two of the men who died -- of course since there were only two, one had to be the Honduran -- suffered "with symptoms that included erratic behavioral changes, incontinence and respiratory illness." And yet, the article quotes the medical official in the very next paragraph:
"We don't think these are necessarily related to each other right now based on the information we have," said Dr. Sandra Guerra-Cantu, regional medical director of the Texas Department of State Health Services. "So we feel fairly confident there's not an ongoing exposure, that people are as safe as they always have been within the facility."
Funny how all those symptoms they have in common are somehow unrelated.

Last week, we received a statement from a GEO spokesperson, quoted by the Del Rio News Herald, informing us that there was no Tuberculosis outbreak at the facility, as rumors had it. Neither was there any indication of an assault by corrections officers. Having to explain away the public fear regarding the latter is certainly telling in itself.

It goes without saying, the spokesperson could have been more clear at the time, given the Chronicle's report. Was the spokesperson parsing words or were reporters and journalists stumbling over themselves in the press blackout and apparent GEO paranoia that ensued? In what appears to have been company and state official defensiveness, as seems the case now as well, there seems to be lot of effort being expended to calm the public concerning a possible contagion. Yet their overly cautious efforts and parsing of words seem to lend the impression that something is being covered-up.

According to the Chronicle's latest report we suddenly find that "Guerra-Cantu said two of the inmates were infected with HIV, and one of those also had tuberculosis." Did one of these die in addition to the Honduran migrant that was spirited out of the country after embalming? Uninformed minds, no thanks to GEO and the State health department officials, want to know.

The forth incarcerate is said to have a mental health diagnosis. Although, this report adds data to the incident without helping us to understand how it is relevant, it also reminds us that the State of Texas is effectively using the prison system to house people with mental illnesses, a fact documented since those times when George W. Bush as governor ordered the emptying of the states mental hospitals into the streets, "compassionate conservative" though he is. Of course, it could also indicate that one of the HIV, ummm, "detainees" is suffering from the dementia that accompanies the final stages of AIDS. We simply don't know because "we aren't being told shit," as Gonzo would say.

If someone can figure out what the other death resulted from would you please let the rest of us know? Having to ask makes it painfully clear that Texas health officials and GEO representatives have learned well from the days when Dubya was our gub'ner that "transparent government" has gone the way of all the other promises he made. Gee, boys, tell us "A Big Lie" - a noble lie. These little manipulations and word parsings are only causing us to go nose to the ground.


In a related story of prison privatization concerning our very own The GEO Group, which manages Reeves County Detention Centers I, II & III and the Val Verde County Jail in Del Rio (a story we just reported on above), the Los Angeles Times reports on the problems created in California by privatization that could be a precursor of our own systemic demise. The GEO Group has California contracts, as well as contracts in the State of Arizona where California is sending her spillover, a spillover ironically caused by the cutting of funding for rehabilitation services such as substance abuse education, treatment and GED programming, cemented together with a "get tough on crime" attitude. This myopically focussed punitive "law & order" mindset has resulted in the incarceration of people with a history of substance abuse who should be receiving treatment and/or education rather than prison sentences -- obviously a policy driven to even more extremes in our own times than its original incarnation as the pre-twentieth century "moral model" of addiction -- sinners such as they are, despite what forty years of research tells us.

Last week The Balmorhea Progressive posted links to an article that blamed the increase of recidivism in California, now the highest in the nation at 70%, on the very fact that California has taken the draconian approach that produced the Rockefeller Laws of the 80s by reducing funding for programs that address the risk factors involved in recidivism -- substance abuse treatment and GED educational services. You can read The Nation article, reproduced at AlterNet, and entitled, "Jailing Nation: How Did Our Prison System Become Such a Nightmare?"

As we keep reminding folks, "Pay me now or pay me later." To reiterate the point made in "Jailing Nation," private prisons are more than happy to aid in the cause of recidivism by warehousing inmates on the cheap and lobbying Congress for tougher drug laws. Suspicions concerning the illnesses at Val Verde County Jail follow along the realization that a corporatist profit motive leads to corporation budgets that seek to cut needed services.

What will we do with these unenlightened law & order folks who see lock-up as the "final solution" to crime, chemical dependency and immigration rolled into one money making corporatist affair?

A special note of thanks to Alex, at Drug Law Blog, who brought this article to everyone's attention with his post, Dungeons for Dollars: LAT on California Prison Crowding and Privatization.


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