State watchdog finds medical neglect, other violations at private prison that houses Tarrant inmates
The private prison that gets tens of millions of dollars to house prisoners from Tarrant and Harris counties has not met the state’s minimum jail standards since December, according to state watchdogs.
Medical neglect, a lack of safety training, missed checks on prisoners and missing documentation are some of the problems the Texas Commission on Jail Standards found at the Giles W. Dalby Correctional Facility in Garza County, four hours west of Fort Worth, according to a notice of non-compliance dated Dec. 18.
Tarrant County alone has signed over more than $40 million to the Dalby facility to house local inmates in the last two years. Tarrant County officials say they need the prison as overflow space, because local jails are understaffed and in need of renovations.
Management & Training Corporation (MTC) is the private prison company that operates Dalby. Some of the issues listed in the TCJS report have already been corrected, and “others are in the process of being corrected and are reviewed weekly by the inspector,” MTC spokesperson Emily Lawhead wrote in an email to KERA.
“Regular audits by our partner agencies are vital to ensuring we are providing the very best services to our clients. We take these audits seriously and respond immediately. We are taking every measure to correct the findings from the inspector’s report,” Lawhead wrote.
Dalby will hold a fire safety training for all staff, and the facility has already “enhanced our documentation procedures,” Lawhead added.
"Most of the deficiencies noted in the inspector’s report had to do with improper documentation,” she wrote.
Tarrant County commissioners approved a new, $22.5 million, 500-bed contract with the Dalby facility in October, with the three Republicans in favor, the two Democrats against.
KERA reached out to each Tarrant County commissioner for comment. Democrat Roy Charles Brooks didn’t know Dalby was noncompliant until KERA called him.
“This is the first time I’ve heard that they do not meet jail standards,” he said.
Brooks said he wanted to reach out to the Tarrant County District Attorney’s Office to see if the noncompliance would be grounds for throwing out the county’s contract with Dalby.
“I would certainly be in favor of terminating the contract, because I didn’t vote for it in the first place,” Brooks said.
In 2022, Harris County signed on to a $25 million contract to send people to the Dalby facility. Harris County’s own jail is also listed as noncompliant on the TCJS website.
The problem at Dalby is bigger than paperwork, said Pamela Young, the executive director of the activist group United Fort Worth.
"The paperwork is a reflection of the type of treatment that people who are being detained at Garza County are getting,” Young said.
United Fort Worth advocates for better jail conditions and less incarceration, and Young has been critical of the private prison contract since the beginning. Dalby is a band-aid over what she sees as the real problem: Too many people get thrown into the Tarrant County Jail, she said.
"Unless they are a violent threat to their community, they should not be in a cage,” Young said. “If we would abide by that, we would not have to pay $40 million to ship people to an out-of-compliance jail four hours away."
The county would be better served by incarcerating fewer people for low-level misdemeanors and rethinking its cash bail system, she said.
The Dalby facility housed federal inmates until 2022, when the Bureau of Prisons did not renew the contract, according to MTC. In 2021, President Joe Biden issued an executive order to phase out all federal contracts with private prisons, to reduce “profit-based incentives to incarcerate.”
After that, Dalby reopened as a private county jail and signed contracts to house people incarcerated in Tarrant and Harris counties.
MTC is the biggest employer in Garza County, and Garza County Judge Lee Norman worked to keep Dalby open after the federal government pulled out, according to local news reports. MTC also pays a per diem to the county for each day a prisoner is in the facility, and the county maintains Dalby’s building, Norman told KERA Monday.
Norman said he does not remember the exact violations outlined in the TCJS report, but he “[feels] very comfortable with how the facility is run.”
“We are doing everything we can to take care of human beings that need to be in that facility,” he said.
List of violations
In December, TCJS found Dalby violated six minimum jail standards, outlined in a public notice of non-compliance and summarized here:
- Despite needing a higher level of medical care than Dalby could provide, one inmate never got transferred anywhere and was released from custody more than a month later without the recommended care.
- Staff missed mandatory safety training for events like fire drills. In the first quarter of 2023, no staff got training. In the third quarter of 2023, 88 out of 111 staff members missed training.
- Jailers are expected to check on the people in their care no less than once an hour, and once every half hour “in areas where inmates are known to be assaultive, potentially suicidal, mentally ill, or have demonstrated bizarre behavior.” Dalby jailers were late on 42% of checks reviewed by TCJS.
- Jails are supposed to document when they restrain someone in custody, and check on the restrained person every 15 minutes. Dalby could not produce five hours of that documentation.
- People in jail are supposed to get a 24-hour written notice about any claimed violations. In at least 10 disciplinary cases, staff did not give that notice.
- Jail administrators could not provide logs to show that incarcerated people were getting their required three days of recreation.
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