New Mexico fines prison company for inadequate staffing
The New Mexico Department of Corrections is fining GEO Group, a Florida-based private prison operator, $1.1 million for understaffing one of its prisons.GEO manages three of the four private prisons in the state, including Lea County Correctional Facility, where from September of 2010 to March of 2011 one out of every four jobs were vacant.
The Santa Fe New Mexican reports:
GEO will pay the $1.1 million over several months, the corrections secretary said. In addition, GEO has agreed to spend $200,000 over the next calendar year to recruit new correctional officers for the Hobbs facility.
By contract, New Mexico can penalize The GEO Group and Corrections Corp. of America, the two firms that operate the private facilities, when staffing vacancies are at 10 percent or more for 30 consecutive days.
The settlement represents the first time in years — possibly ever — that New Mexico has penalized the out-of-state, for-profit companies for not adequately staffing the facilities they operate.
GEO is the second largest private prison company in the country, after Corrections Corporation of America (CCA), and it operates over 60 facilities in 15 states. The company reported $1.2 billion in earnings and $58.8 million in profit during the first nine months of this year.
The Corrections Department has faced criticism in the past for failing to penalize GEO and CCA for understaffing their facilities in the state. Much of that criticism occurred under a previous corrections secretary, Joe Williams, who called the private prisons “outstanding” despite their high number of vacancies. As the New Mexico Independent reported at the time, Williams had also been hired by GEO as a warden at Lea County Correctional, the very facility for which the company is now being fined.