In 1994 Wackenhut Corrections Corporation was awarded a contract by the state of Texas to build and operate a juvenile justice facility in Coke County for delinquent girls. In a rush to receive its first inmates, Wackenhut opened the Coke County Juvenile Justice Center in Bronte before it was fully staffed. No educational programs were in place, and most employees had no background experience in dealing with the types of troubled young girls the state placed at the facility.
A class action lawsuit filed in Dallas alleged that girls held at Coke County were “degraded, humiliated, assaulted, harassed, and emotionally abused,” and that the facility was deficient in medical care, counseling, and vocational training. Two Wackenhut employees pled guilty to criminal charges of sexual assault, and Wackenhut decided to settle the lawsuit. One of the girls who had been raped committed suicide the day the settlement was announced. The Texas Youth Commission responded by removing the female inmates, but modified the contract to house delinquent boys, and increased the number of beds in the facility.
More recently Texas state officials terminated a contract with Wackenhut in Austin. They had already levied $625,000 in fines against the company for chronic staff shortages before reports of alleged criminal activity -- sexual misconduct and abuse of prisoners, assaults, drug smuggling, and alleged cover ups – led to contract termination. A dozen former Wackenhut employees have been indicted on criminal sex charges.
In New Mexico, two prisons Wackenhut operates have repeatedly erupted in violence and disturbances; the death toll in these prisons reached five in less than one year. Wackenhut activated the Lea County Correctional Facility at Hobbs in May of 1998. Before the end of the summer there were reports of widespread violence at the facility.