Monday, July 9, 2007

Texas: It's Like a Whole Other Country

For $30 you can get a Texas license plate with the slogan: "Texas: It's Like a Whole Other Country." Those words never rang more true after I read the story of Scot Noble Payne. Mr. Payne was an inmate of the Idaho Department of Corrections being housed in a privately owned corrections facility in Dickens County, Texas. The facility was operated by a Florida company called the GEO Group. Idaho had a policy of easing inmate overcrowding in their own state by farming out inmates to other facilities like the one in Dickens County. The problem was that conditions at this facility were so deplorable and sickening that Mr. Payne used a razor blade to slice two 3-inch gashes in his throat and bled to death in the shower of his cell after writing 20 pages of letters to loved ones describing the decrepit conditions. The "Kick Ass NORPS" out there will be happy to know Mr. Payne was serving time for molesting a child.

After Payne's suicide, the Idaho Department of Corrections health care director inspected the Texas prison and declared it the worst facility he had ever seen. The inspector noted that Payne's cell was unacceptable and the remainder of the facility was beyond repair. After the inspector made his report, warden Ron Alford was eventually fired. Alford's excuse was that GEO did not provide enough money to make necessary improvements.

Families of incarcerated inmates should know that GEO was hired to operate prisons in 15 other states despite reports of abusive guards and terrible sanitation problems. Also, GEO was sued after a female inmate in the Val Verde County, Texas prison alleged she was raped by another inmate and sexually humiliated by a GEO guard. Beyond this, investigations into sex abuse allegations at another GEO-run Texas prison led to the firing of a guard who was a convicted sex offender.

What better way to rehabilitate a fellow human being than forcing him to live in a sewer. What better way to modify his behavior than to drive him into such deep depression that he feels his only escape is taking his own life. What better way to train another person to live a law abiding life outside of prison walls than by denying him basic sanitation, substance-abuse training, pre-release programs, and anger-management classes. I know our society has no love lost on convicted child molesters and other criminals, but come on. Do we train our children by making them live like pigs? Yes, it appears that Texas is like a whole other country - a third world one.

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