Investing in this company is indicative of a hellacious lack of humanity. It also looks like you'll lose your ass. From todays NYTimes: T he Justice Department filed a lawsuit yesterday against the Wackenhut Corrections Corporation and the State of Louisiana charging that conditions at a private for-profit juvenile prison in central Louisiana run by Wackenhut are "dangerous and life threatening" and asking a federal judge to take emergency action to protect the inmates.
The lawsuit asked Judge Frank J. Polozola of Federal District Court in Baton Rouge to intervene to stop guards at the Wackenhut prison from beating the young boys, throwing gas grenades into their barracks,holding them for long periods in isolation and failing to provide the inmates with adequate mental health care and education.
David Utter, director of the Juvenile Justice Project of Louisiana, a civil rights and advocacy group that represents some of the inmates, said the Justice Department action was highly unusual because it was done in the form of a request for a preliminary injunction for emergency relief, rather than as a regular lawsuit. "It is an extraordinary remedy for a horrendous situation," Mr. Utter said. A group of experts hired by the Justice Department who toured the prison, at Jena, reported that many of the 276 boys incarcerated there had no shoes or blankets and were constantly short of food. The experts also reported that many boys had tried to commit suicide or had deliberately injured themselves to get into the infirmary as a way to escape physical abuse by the guards.
A New Orleans juvenile court judge, Mark Doherty, found conditions at Jena so bad he released six boys he had sent there after visiting the prison earlier this month. Judge Doherty, a Republican and former prosecutor, said Wackenhut had treated the boys no better than animals "on all fours."
In response to the Justice Department lawsuit, Wackenhut released a written statement saying that the company "is providing a constitutionally sound, safe and secure facility" and that it is "working hard to continuously improve the operations through additional support from our corporate and regional staff."
In addition, Wackenhut said it believed the Justice Department experts had been misled by "exaggerations and misstatements of facts" by inmates they had interviewed, and that the experts' findings "do not accurately reflect the condition of the facility today."
Richard Stalder, the secretary of the Louisiana Department of Public Safety and Corrections was said to be out of town and other officials in his office did not return calls seeking comment.
Wackenhut, based in Palm Beach Gardens, Fla., is the second largest private prison company in the United States and the largest internationally. It operates 39,308 beds in 56 institutions in 13 states and 7 foreign countries, and its shares trade on the New York Stock Exchange.
Justice Department officials have privately expressed both bafflement and anger at the conditions in Jena, since the Justice Department had reached an agreement with Wackenhut just before the prison opened in December 1998 laying down guidelines for how the prison would be run.
Bill Lann Lee, acting assistant attorney general for civil rights, said "We are taking this action on behalf of young people in this facility who cannot help or protect themselves." Mr. Lee added, "It is clear that, at this time, we need to involve the court to get some emergency relief."