FBI investigating Wackenhut abuse allegations The FBI is reportedly taking a look at allegations of brutality against inmates in this privately operated unit of the state Correction Department.
By Michael Haddigan December 01, 2000 Arkansas Times
The FBI is investigating allegations that guards beat inmates at the state prison units operated at Newport by the Wackenhut Corrections Corp., said state Correction Department spokesman Dina Tyler. The allegations came to light in Arkansas Times stories published on Nov. 16. Current and former guards and employees and inmates alleged that beatings of prisoners were a regular occurrence, especially at the Scott Grimes Correctional Facility which houses about 600 young males between the ages of 16 and 24. The Ronald McPherson Correctional Facility houses about 600 women inmates of all ages in a nearly identical facility. "We have spoken with the FBI. The FBI is looking into this, and we are assisting them," Tyler said. Wackenhut Senior Warden John Maples said FBI agents have been to the facility recently, but he said he didn't know what they were investigating. Brian Marshall, an FBI spokesman in Little Rock, declined comment. The Times first learned of the allegations in letters from inmates who contended that Wackenhut guards brought in temporarily from Louisiana were terrorizing inmates with what they called "Swamp Beatings." Prisoners were often handcuffed for minor infractions, sprayed with chemical agents and then punched, kicked and rammed into walls and doors, the inmates said. Correctional officers at both facilities interviewed for the articles said such beatings were common knowledge among the guard force. One officer, Joe Tagliaboschi, 62, of Diaz, said he believed other officers falsified documents to cover up the beatings. The guards also complained that Wackenhut frequently ran both units with a skeleton staff far below the "critical post" limits required by the company's contract with the state.