Source: US State of New York
Petition to Compel Filed After The GEO Group, Inc. Fails to Produce Subpoenaed Documents
NEW YORK – New York Attorney General Letitia James took legal action today in an ongoing civil investigation into potentially inadequate protocols taken by The GEO Group, Inc. (GEO), a private detention management company, to protect staff and detained individuals at the Queens Detention Facility (QDF) amidst the COVID-19 pandemic. This year, Attorney General James opened an investigation into GEO after red flags were raised through public reporting, complaints, and court affidavits regarding failures to put sufficient protections in place.
“Far too often, for-profit detention facilities, like GEO, prioritize their bottom line, and not transparency, accountability, or the wellbeing of incarcerated individuals,” said Attorney General James. “GEO has a clear responsibility to the staff and detained individuals in the Queens Detention Facility to promote a safe environment that follows the COVID-19 city, state, and federal guidelines and laws. Our facilities, both public and private, must have proper protocols and procedures in place, and I will continue to launch legal actions to compel GEO to comply with our office’s lawful subpoenas so that we can get the answers we need to uncover the truth.”
During the investigation, the Office of the Attorney General (OAG) learned of complaints that GEO failed to separate symptomatic detainees or provide enough protective wear or medical care at QDF, raising concerns that COVID-19 safety procedures were insufficient to prevent or detect infections. Also, GEO has reported testing only 13 detainees out of approximately 160 for COVID-19 since mid-April, which is another source of concern that an outbreak may go unchecked. By comparison, government-run jails in the city have tested thousands of individuals.
GEO, which houses federal detainees on behalf of the United States Marshals Service, has claimed that it is shielded from the subpoenas as a federal contractor. But the OAG argues that Executive Law § 63(12) gives the OAG broad powers to investigate illegality, including subpoenaing GEO for information about its practices at QDF in order to protect detainees, prison staff, and New York state residents from a possible threat to health and safety.
The petition to compel, filed today in the New York Supreme Court, seeks an order compelling GEO’s compliance with the subpoenas. The OAG has reached no conclusions in this matter, and the investigation remains ongoing.
This case is being handled by Assistant Attorneys General Lillian Marquez and Lindsay McKenzie of the Civil Rights Bureau, under the supervision of Bureau Chief Jessica Clarke. The Civil Rights Bureau is a part of the Division of Social Justice, led by Chief Deputy Attorney General Meghan Faux, and all under the oversight of First Deputy Attorney General Jennifer Levy.
Attorney General James has long called for substantive reforms to the for-profit prison system. During her tenure as New York City Public Advocate, she successfully championed efforts for New York City to become the first municipality in the nation to divest its public pension system from private prisons. Additionally, the then-Public Advocate James called on J.P. Morgan Chase to end its financial relationship with two private prison companies, GEO and CoreCivic, due to its profiting from aggressive immigration enforcement policies.