The service would be provision of medical care to approximately 320 inmates with mental impairments. One particular company could still be a leader in the process, and has even hired a former director of the DMH to aid its bid.
The same GEO Group, however, has been sued very many times for inadequate medical care leading to morbid results.
Of direct pertinence to this role Gov. Haley wants it to fulfill in South Carolina, and clearly indicating its incapability to successfully perform such a job, GEO Group has been cited multiple times for denying needed medical treatment and for failure to provide prescribed medications.
Many of the incidents in question were not just fatal, but concentrated, occurring in short times in single facilities. Between 2008 and 2009, for example, nine inmates had unexplained deaths at a Texas facility operated by GEO Group.
Those incidents resulted in two protests at the same prison, in which inmates pointed out the deaths resulted from inadequate medical care. GEO’s response to those protests led to riots, which not only resulted in more needed medical care for injured protesting inmates, but also cost the State of Texas over $1 million in damages to that prison.
And GEO Group made its principle goal of profit at the cost of inmates quite evident just two years ago. Operating the only private prison in Pennsylvania, GEO Group cancelled its contract in 2009 after multiple lawsuits were filed against the company, regarding eight inmate deaths in its one facility over a four-year period. GEO Group stated “frequent litigations” to be the reason it chose to exit.
In other words, GEO Group is known to scale back on provision of necessities for monetary reasons, causing the death of inmates as a result, and to then completely bail out when it looks like the company might have to pay more money in the long run.
The most recent case against GEO Group is for the same charges. In Nov. 2010, lawsuits were filed against the company for denying medical care at a juvenile detention center in Mississippi. The U.S. Dept. of Justice announced its own investigation of the facility shortly after.
The same company has faced very many other charges in lawsuits, as well, including prisoner abuse, inhumane treatment, prisoner rape and sexual assault, negligence – even smuggling of illegal drugs into its prison facilities – and in many different states.
GEO Group has already faced complaint at another South Carolina facility, too. Earlier this year, the state’s Council on Aging investigated incident of an injured patient in the GEO-operated Columbia Regional Care Center. Instead of being aided in bathing at normal hours, the patient was twice forcibly cleaned by hose, and at the odd time of 3:15 a.m.
So why was this privatization in general and GEO Group in particular ever considered? For monetary reasons, apparently, and possibly in more than just one way.
For example of one monetary avenue, state Rep. Kris Crawford (R-Florence), a doctor and proponent of this measure, says a private company “can do the work cheaper,” The State reported.
(Incidentally, Crawford was arrested last year for tax evasion of his incorporated medical facility. The first procedures in this case resulted in mistrial, and now await re-hearing.)
However, countless studies on the cost-efficiency of such privatization say the opposite.
An in-depth study done by the U.S. Bureau of Justice Statistics, for example, concluded that the cost savings promised by use of any private prisons and private prison services “have not materialized.”
A comprehensive study by the Government Accountability Office found there to be no “substantial evidence that savings [in privatization of any prison services] have occurred.”
A meta-analysis done by a private researchers on the general field, examining 33 other studies of 24 private prison companies, realized “private prisons were no more cost-effective than public prisons.”
These studies are of basic comparisons of operating costs, please note, and do not include resultant expenses resulting from lawsuits against private prison and prison service companies, which are very large in number. In short, such privatization could cost more in the long run.
Additional costs are of greater risk in South Carolina, too. Bidders raised questions about anticipated need for additional facility space, notes The State’s report. Following those questions, the state DMH is no longer listing a formal request for proposals. A re-release of this RFP undetermined.
Regarding the other potential monetary avenue that brings this possibility to the front, GEO Group donates to political campaigns in the state. In particular, last year it twice donated directly to Haley’s run for governor, and gave the maximum $3,500 donation to the Republican Governors Association campaign to elect Haley, too.
GEO Group also donated to Haley’s 2014 re-election campaign on April 1 of this year.
To improve the company’s standing in the potential bid, GEO recently hired George Gintoli, who was director of the state Dept. of Mental Health from 2001 to 2005. He was appointed by Gov. Mark Sanford. Gintoli is now Vice President of GEO’s secure treatment facilities division.
During his term as DMH director, Gintoli oversaw a project to cut the number of mental patients serviced at hospital emergency rooms in half.