Is patient care – or profits – the priority at privatized Montgomery County Mental Health Treatment Facility in Conroe?

By Ryan Meltzer
ACLU of Texas Intern

Last week, we ran a post that mentioned the grand jury investigation into the construction of the Montgomery County Mental Health Treatment Facility in Conroe. Apparently, the County didn’t publish any legal notices requesting bids from construction companies, as required by law, nor was there any evidence that the commissioners chose the “winning” company from a list of recommended, qualified developers. As it turns out, the facility’s problems didn’t end with the whiffs of corruption surrounding its construction.

Now, the Austin American-Statesman and the Houston Chronicle are reporting that the Texas Department of Health Services has recommended levying over $100,000 in fines against the facility, stemming from severe shortcomings in the patient care provided by—you guessed it—GEO Care, a subsidiary of private prison operator GEO Group. The Department has tentatively reduced the fine to $53,000, but its decision is not final—and when you read the laundry list of violations, you’ll understand why. Since March 2011, the Department has inspected the facility three times, and each visit has turned up serious problems, ranging from unauthorized restraint and seclusion of patients to inadequate recordkeeping and failure to report grave patient injuries to the state. Some lowlights:

  • Half of 50 incidents of patient restraint or seclusion were not supported by an “appropriate” physician’s order. The Department determined that there was a “significant lack of compliance with physician orders for initiating restraint.”
  • The director of psychiatric nursing had only an associate’s degree, rather than the required master’s degree in psychiatric mental health.
  • Classes designed to help patients recover were described as “bedlam,” leading patients to refuse attendance. (Echoes of the New York Times’ story on the halfway houses operated by Community Education Centers. For our previous coverage on CEC, see here and here)
  • The hospital kept patients for months after they had been found competent to stand trial, and maintained excessively restrictive policies on phone use and personal property.
  • While being held in seclusion for four hours, one patient threatened staff and repeatedly banged his head against his room’s walls, causing lacerations to both eyes and a bruise to his head. Staff did not attempt to help the patient—for instance, by employing mechanical restraints—out of fear.
  • One patient seriously injured himself and then consumed fecal matter, but the incident was not reported to the state or addressed through the patient’s treatment plan.

The most disturbing part: Despite these deeply troubling findings, the Department is moving forward with its plans to privatize one of the 10 public psychiatric hospitals it oversees. Admittedly, the Department’s hands appear to be tied—the Chronicle reports that state lawmakers attached a rider to last year’s budget bill, ordering officials to privatize one state psychiatric hospital and generate at least 10 percent cost savings to the state. Laws like this elevate fiscal savings over human welfare, and evince a callous indifference to the care of the most vulnerable members of our society.

Actually, no. Scratch that. The most disturbing part: As of last Thursday, the only company to bid for the contract was—that’s right—GEO Care.

Tell your lawmakers that there are better ways to cut state costs than farming out prison and mental health care operations to profit-driven companies. Join our Community Action Network today!

One thought on “Is patient care – or profits – the priority at privatized Montgomery County Mental Health Treatment Facility in Conroe?”

  1. Dear Ryan Meltzer and or the ALCU,
    Scott Hinkle is being held by the MONTGOMERY COUNTY PRISON IN CONROE HE IS AN INNOCENT MAN and his sentence was completed as of Nov.2009, and he is still there….
    I sent this to President Obama earlier today.
    Please read this letter personally, I have a friend Scott Hinkle who is now in the Montgomery county jail his sentence has been served since 2009 and yet he has not been released because he is claiming his innocense. I Donna Baker, my mother, Wanda Williams and two sisters, Sandra Porcaro and Christine Rosetti, have known him since he was a little boy about 10 years old. He was accused of raping 2 women, he was talked into claiming no-contest not understanding that his plea was scratched out and replaced with a guilty plea years later. One woman concented to sex with him not raped. The other woman wanted him to date her and he wouldn’t date her much less rape her, he wouldn’t even touch her. These two women knew each other and conspired together to put him away for rape, with no proof what so ever, no DNA, no sperm, just she said,she said. He has been incarserated for almost 20 years because he has continued to claim his innosence throughout the years. He was sentenced to 15 years, and yet not released because he denies having done either rape. Any and all proof was stricken, from the record in court, because he refuses to lie or admit to something he didn’t do, he is christian, and is still praying for God’s help to clear his name of such a horrible crime of witch there is no proof. He has been denied his Civil Right to claim his innocense and the right to be prooven guilty in a court of Law. Where is his Civil Right to speech and right to protect his innocense? Where is the proof beyond a doubt… with no evidence except for these conspiring womens claims? He has done almost 5 years extra because he refuses to lie to everyone? He dated my sister previous to these accusations with no problems, he never forced himself on her and she has always been a georgious woman and still is. Please read his story I am sending you in an attatchment to this email. He is scheduled to go to the supreme court soon. I am asking you to review this innocent mans’ Civil Right to be innocent until prooven guilty. The only proof is she said, she said from 2 vindictive women who wanted a relationship with him and didn’t get what they wanted. My name is Donna Baker 210-264-7429, my mother Wanda Williams 210-967-5691, and my sister Sandra Porcaro 210-723-2348, our adress is 5855 Spring Green, San Antonio, Texas 78247. Please, feel free to call any or all numbers included, or send us an email, our email adress is… Please find it in your heart to personally review his case and grant him a full pardon if possible. The system claims he is in denial by not claiming his guilt to something he never did. I have been his personal friend since he was 10 years old, he is a very gentle, loving, and considerate person and could never have raped anyone. He has been a trustee for many years, he is trust worthy enough to be that special. These are bogus charges, with no proof. I know he is an honest, truthful person who was unable to protect himself from being convicted with only statements from the two women. Where was the proof then and where is the proof now? He has done more time than most murderers even they got out early on good behavior, but not him. His sentence ended in Nov.2009. Yet they won’t let him go because he has always stood up and claimed the truth… he didn’t do it. Should he be punished forever because he believes in his Innosence, Integrity, Freedom of Speech, as well Freedom of Religion?
    The Civil Right to tell the truth? Why is the Criminal Justice System still punishing him beyond the Judges sentence. Where is his Civil Right to serve his sentence and go home. He has already served 20 years for a 15 year sentence. When will his sentence end, like everyone else who is incarcerated. Please help my innocent friend. I believe in You, Mr.President and your Criminal Justice Reform,
    Thank you for your personal attention and time in this matter. Donna Baker and family
    To all adherents of Justice,
    In compiling these facts, places, and times, please forgive what is surely a layman’s presentation. I strive to be objective but it is difficult with my family and future at stake. Feel free to contact any or all of the good folks helping to bring this matter to light referenced here in this information for further inquiry. They have made themselves available to speak to and stand for the truth even to this day. My family and I are eternally grateful. Seventeen years ago, I unwillingly pled “no-contest” to charges of sexual crimes myself and several others know not to be true. I never saw it coming. At the hearing, I’d have no idea just how damning even the mere accusation would be. Intimidated by the system, having a record, and even with the pressure applied by my lawyer, I still told him that under no circumstances will I go in front of a judge and say I did something I didn’t do. That was about the only right thing I did that day. My own lawyer gave me this mealy-mouthed no contest plea, and for all I knew I could have been saying no comment. Today in retrospect, I hear judges won’t even accept these no-contest pleas in cases of sexual nature. How telling, and rightfully so. I commend them in seeing that to be a problem and I am still reeling from the damage done then, and facing today, being held in what is called “civil commitment”. If there is any question of where I stood that day it is apparent on the record where I stated “your honor I had permissive sex with Sandra and in the other case with Michelle is bogus” (we had no sex). The lawyer, Bill Berchelmann moved me along quickly and hushed me up long enough to get me a 15 year sentence I received in the 227th Dist. Ct. San Antonio 12/1/1994 under a Judge Machado. Two years plus and after the completion of this entire 15 year sentence, I am considered in “denial” and confined indefinitely. My case is not mistaken identity nor is it a DNA issue because there is none (to appeal to say, the innocence project folks) but I am no less innocent then than I am today. In fact, more people have come forward with first-hand knowledge of this wrongful conviction. We lack the backing and opportunity to show it. You’d think law would be pursued just as diligently in freeing the wrongfully accused as it seems to be in pursuing a conviction.
    There’s a tremendous heretic status conferred at the mere mention of a sex crime right or wrong. Across the board, in our world today it has become the “nuclear option“ in the wrong hands. The speculation alone is enough to ruin a career or reputation often for life, be it money, some status, a custody battle, or outright vindictiveness. Who knows, but it happens all too often. These also draw vast pools of resources and costly taxpayer therapies plus programs away from those whose claims are legitimate and heartbreaking. Where are the protections from those claims that are false and malicious? One could never imagine or even want to contemplate such a thing until it becomes personal to you. It is maddening, and for this reason you will see layers of law like an onion peel unraveling as the SPU (special prosecution unit) of the state, deliberately fails to even approach the notion that innocence is, and will remain the heart of the issue even in the present civil commitment case (now in the supreme court of Texas). I have maintained my innocence throughout, and have paid plenty to maintain the integrity of this truth.
    In prison I obtained a paralegal Certification and went to the law library so much I got a job there. I did once manage to have the 227th dist. Ct. in San Antonio acknowledge my lawyer’s ineffective assistance in my second Habeas writ filing (the first done by an inmate down there who promised the world and spoke “legalese” to me as a green horn my first year). With the ineffective assistance claim, my lawyer responded with a blanket statement saying he did what he could (investigating nothing) and that was that. I had been up for parole since 1996 (2 counts non aggravated sexual assault) the second “no sex” charge came out initially as “physical contact” misdemeanor, a week later it became sexual assault. See case w/ Michelle Ringer. Having professed my innocence at parole 1996 I quickly received a 3 year set off every time I saw parole, ending with the completion of the whole 15 years on 11/13/2009. I was on what was the most violent unit in Texas at the time. The Terrell Unit “Terror-dome” (now Polunsky). I kept my nose clean, minded my own business, and never had a major case in 7 years. After the Habeas ordeal however, I gave up. I lost faith in the system, faith in the appeals, and even in the God I questioned would allow this to happen.
    No hope I was frustrated I acted a fool going to closed and medium custody levels time and time again. I’ve had 5 major cases in all. All disciplinary and nothing criminal. Two cases of “establishing a relationship” with a female guard. I am presently married to the woman in the second instance. We both accepted responsibility in this matter and are still together today 4 years later. I can’t say I am happy with all my decisions in that matter or her being in that position between me and her job, but I love my wife and I feel I acted as a normal man in abnormal circumstances. I cannot accurately convey to you how trying those times were, knowing the truth. I just tried to live some type of life there in all that mess.
    Largely in part because of that and what was perceived as a “denial” I was brought before the 435th dist. Ct. in Conroe, Texas Montgomery co. to be sued for civil commitment (which is indefinite treatment and confinement) to commence at the end of my 15 year sentence. My folks hit the roof knowing the circumstances in my case and wanting me home. They spent a great deal of their own retirement to obtain counsel and also a Psychiatrist/psychologist.
    Family, friends, witnesses and the doctor, (John Tennison M.D.) all came to the trial and it ended with the first civil commitment mistrial they’d had since 1999. I was able to speak openly and explain the circumstances (see affidavits), being simply a one night stand and an ex-girlfriend who conspired to “pile on charges here (see Katy Helton affidavit). My witnesses on the other hand were not allowed to speak of their first-hand knowledge of the circumstances surrounding my innocence. Questioning, what kind of court have we allowed our leaders to create with the pretense of innocence before proven guilty yet speaking of it is disallowed?
    Dr. Tennison (Stanford – Johns Hopkins) had put in over 100 hours of objective findings, forensic, psychological, investigative inquiries into my case, actuarial of mental disposition and critical tests of the validity to any claims I and others have made. Dr. Tennison testified at length leaving no stone unturned and using the diagnostic and statistical manual (DSM) as the template for inquiry and formulating his findings. The doctor declared in open court that he found my (and others, family, witnesses) assertions and statements to be true. He literally checked them all out and spoke to a number of different people surrounding the issues. First being whether or not I met the criteria for civil commitment statue, all the reports, records, testing and in this process revealed some truths that have lain dormant for far too long. He also showed low recidivism projections (not to mention the simple fact that in 2012 it will be 20 years) he testified to the fact in all of the cases where you deal with forensics and allegations of rape in these particulars, the scale of balance tends to lean toward the victim when investigated. The doctor testified that is not the case with this investigation, actually showing that the scale leans heavily towards Mr. Hinkle’s assertions (paraphrasing Dr.Tennison’s testimony in the 435th dist. Co. 7/2009) this ended in the mistrial. The state (SPU) filed for a retrial which began in October 2009. There the state struck Dr. Tennison from testifying on my behalf to the jury of his findings claiming that he was a “hostile to the statue” of behavioral abnormality or some such thing. The SPU has never lost a case since 1999. The second trial was nothing less than a giant gag order where I and my witnesses were only allowed to answer in yes or no and any explanation was met with an objection and accusation of “narrating”. The state psych’s however had free reign and laid it on pretty thick. Over-reaching and underperforming (for one, I’m given a 37 out of 40 on a psychopathy test, a threat to life everywhere, outscoring both Bundy and Jeffery Dahmer) blatant lies are told to the jury on the record that can be easily disproven. Some pretty crazy stuff, yet they (state psych’s) seem to have some type of immunity and that sure isn’t right. As in most of what you’ll read in these proceedings, it may be wheeled to be “legal” because no one’s applied the big eye to it yet but we know it isn’t ethical. My only defense is stricken from revealing facts and telling the truth and come to find out the state psych’s are paid double to accuse than when they defend. How’s that for disincentive to objective finding?
    I was committed October 9, 2009 and sent to the Ben Reid facility in Houston, Texas. Upon arrival I am told I will have NO contact with family “for quite a while”, and informed in my case of my wife the ex-officer, no contact ever. I met the treatment providers, Mike Wodkins – therapist (ex-warden) and Billy Barnes – case manager. I tried not to sign anything but was told I’d go to jail if I didn’t. They even call us “clients” in the paperwork. I complied there in as much as going to the prescribed meetings and orientation and paperwork and I never once lost my head or called these folks out of their God –given names. In the midst of all the madness and antagonistic episodes they certainly applied I continued to maintain and speak the truth.
    I willingly took a polygraph I was told to breathe calmly then soon after was told I need to breathe more. I was asked if I was thinking something, I replied bible verses, and was met with accusations of sabotaging the test. I informed them I’d never taken a polygraph before this time; the provider rendered the test inconclusive.
    That pales in comparison to this next order of business. I’m sent in a van to a private contractor in Houston, strapped into a lazy boy recliner, pants at my ankles with some virtual-reality headgear goggles on me with some sexually twisted audio and video going on and wires wrapped around my penis. I’m in clockwork orange here and forced to look at this depraved garbage. No arousal levels, flat-lined incidentally and I’m serious even Orwell couldn’t make this stuff up it’s called a Penile Plythsmograph (PPG). To cap it off, therapist Wodkins asks me if I was thinking of bible verses then too.
    Other telling moments were the confrontations by Mike Wodkins in “group”, individual sessions with Wodkins and his wife/ therapy colleague, or the meetings with Wodkins and Billy Barnes both. Grilled, ridiculed, whatever they brought I know full well the truth of the matter. I was not high nor drunk on the night in question and it doesn’t change, it was not rape, or force, or any of the psycho-babble they’re laying on me. I’d say “you want to help somebody? Start listening to these people backing up their position with facts, not just me”. “You want to help somebody? Dig a little deeper, find out, ask the doctor who was paid to be objective”. I’d say you know things like “Guantanamo detainees have more rights” or “just do what’s right man” I know they have a job to do and passing the buck is their thing, yet in this it’s too easy to see something terribly amiss.
    The “clients” sit in group and each says their name and that they are a sex-offender, they did thus and thus and how many counts they have and describe. What was alarming was that everyone in group was dealing with some form, or acts of pedophilia. So yeah, it’s hurtful to hear. I spoke against it when asked for feedback and was slammed for “ridgid” thinking. You just can’t win in this setting. It’s like Dr. Thomas Szasz said when reflecting on the inevitability of psychiatric tyranny, “if you’re early for an appointment you have anxiety issues, if late, you are hostile, and if on time you are compulsive”. My case has nothing to do with kids whatsoever yet the (CSOT) Counsel for Sex Offender Treatment will inject rhetoric into the record like “Mr. Hinkle has endorsed several of the common myths used by child molesters” ENDORSED?!WHAT? That is a horrible and cruel appreciation with no basis but smear, or, their way of saying I’ve never been abused as a child is to say that “Mr. Hinkle continues to hold to the denial that he was abused as a child”. You bias the record and the reader from a clear view. Equipped with an arsenal and lists of labels reminiscent of the mud-slinging in Mao’s China or Stalin’s Russia. May sound farfetched but same driving impetus, claims of “progress” with negative growth of government and Godless ideologies subversive and deceptive, right here in these United States. Lying by inference is a big deal here; I am highly offensive to these folks and am under no illusions. The truth is not at stake for them, it is relative, and I should just get in line.
    No one has ever completed the program or are they likely too, like a hamster wheel. Several of these “clients” have repeated the “workbook” 3 or 4 times over and high cost with all the warehousing as the CSOT is just another branch of the biggest industry in Texas. The Texas dept. of criminal justice-institutional division and in the case of civil commitment, more attention and resource subsidies for confinement in what is deceptively called “outpatient” treatment.
    So therapist and case manager have both become livid administering room restriction, lock-down, writing assignments etc. because I cannot say what they want to hear. I wrote a grievance on the issue that went to the CSOT I received a response from the same CSOT that I need to just do what I’m told basically. Final word as in all grievances there, no due process and no checks.
    I’ve claimed everything I’ve ever done, pled guilty (no felonies) to any and all charges. A lot of which I’m not proud of but I’ve been real with it and with myself. That’s what all this justice talk is about. Get the facts before a jury and let them hash it out. Not in the hands of head shirker’s paid to find a culprit around every corner painting their methods infallible (see attached) since 1999? I never had a trial. My witnesses are good and solid people and denying them the right to be heard is unthinkable here in America. One, a retired colonel, another presently serving our military, and others of sterling character.
    Within three weeks of arriving at the Reid facility I was thrown in jail in Harris co. for “failure to comply” a felony charge carrying 2–20 with enhancement. I stayed locked up there and never a bond with this charge, my parents in San Antonio are tapped and I couldn’t ask them after all they’d already done. I was appointed counsel, a Ms. Cynthia Cline, she did a bang up job (you don’t hear that much) and uncovered some other things in my paperwork and pen-pack for civil commitment that reads I pled “guilty” someone actually crossed out “no-contest” and wrote in “guilty”. Ms. Cline caught that and amended the record with a nunc-pro-tunc (fix the record) filing. The district attorney in Harris co. saw the no-contest plea, eventually dismissing the case, acknowledging that a no-contest plea does not require an admission of guilt. How much more should that apply once a person has finished their entire sentence? There either are or are not protections afforded by a no-contest plea. I learned it was also made to preclude an individual from a civil suit (i.e., civil commitment?).
    Nine months and case dismissed sent back to the Reid facility for 3 months where renewed efforts are made to make me admit. Now after coming back I am told I may say “alleged” and “accused of” in my group setting and I did, because now there are a few people paying attention to this. My father and family up north hired these attorneys familiar with the case (thank God). Attorneys Ms. Cynthia Cline and Tom Moran, and they’d come check things out now and again. I am still to have no contact with family. I spoke to them in the county jail on the phone, and the civil commitment statue states when incarcerated the requirements are suspended. So you go to jail to talk to your family and the ones you love, go figure. I’m eventually approached by case manager Billy Barnes who tells me he wants a word with me and we go outside. He tells me that my legal issues and my therapy issues are two separate things (as my case was on appeal), and if I would just “admit it” on the therapy side of things it won’t affect the legal aspects, no, and then we might be able to work something out on speaking to or contact with my family. I told him that he sounds like the mob shaking down a storekeeper or something, professional thuggery it is. This has got to be dealt with by better minds than mine in court somewhere on issues such as that. I can do time, that’s not it. It’s the people you love having to go through it with you. That’s what gets you, and it was like he had a gun to their head to bring me to the sway of the state. Sound harsh? Please investigate in your individual capacity to do so, and you’ll see parents who have already been through the ringer with this and getting older along with family members passing on, me not able to be there in their final time and that because of a lie? Yeah, a lot goes into this and I’m focused in making it a point to convey fact, times, dates, people, and relative issues as loud and long as I must for it is genuine, if it were not I would not have them hurting behind this, and they in turn would not be in support if they did not fully know this to be true. One thing it’s never been is easy.
    My expression of these matters is simple. I am a praying man and enough cannot be said for the proper application of moral law, and given by whom our legislative founders called nature’s God. What a concept. Government responsible to an authority in how it treats its citizens? Most of my family has been in the military, father and both grandfathers’ war heroes, first cousin law enforcement, one uncle navy, and another uncle a fireman most of his life and now an arson investigator. I love them and pray for the job they do out there. I said all that to let it be known my family and I don’t object to law. It’s in cases where law is ill applied, or here where it’s just the will applied. For lawyers, judges, law enforcement or anyone who allows the sense of internal obligation to reason or discern to be silenced. As anyone who grows slack from making diligent determinations in their given authority shouldn’t be there in it. Allowing these “checks” to take place here in our system had made us great because we were good. Otherwise, we are soon another might makes right nation of the past.
    At Reid for the second time I complied with everything else required as much as I could once again minus the polygraph and the (PPG) this time. After 3 months I was arrested again and put in jail in the city jail in Houston, then in the Harris co. jail, then and sent here to the Montgomery co. jail where I have been for the past year and 3 months and counting under the same “failure to comply” that was dismissed in Harris co. . The second civil trial that is and has been on appeal has been REVERSED in the 9th ct. of criminal appeals as of June 16, 2011 (the striking of Dr. Tennison, who incidentally has testified in this same court under the same statue since my trial.) This reversal is challenged by the state and is presently in the Supreme Court of Texas. I truly need help with this matter as both attorneys Tom Moran and Cynthia Cline are covered only in the criminal case. We do not have those kinds of deep pockets.
    This last imposition involved the coping mechanisms I use in the Word (Bible), I was told there in group and in my own daily writings not to speak of my faith. It was labeled as a thinking error, “religiosity”. Now if you know me, and or have been around me any amount of time I usually stay pretty casual and hopeful, and in these trying times God’s word is an inseparable part of that, an integral aspect of my life. I didn’t just sit and stews with the rest of the seedy conversation around, neither do I push it on others, it’s not like that. I won’t be “chanting” or demand the group hold hands and pray or some such thing. Yet when it comes to what keeps me in a quiet strength within such strenuous living conditions day to day, I will not have it pushed from me, and I will not shelve what faith I have. I’m no martyr, by any stretch I haven’t the strength, though I do know to stand in what is right. Now before this becomes a full testimony, just know it’s really been no power of mine that I have made it this far. If anything it can’t be said that I didn’t give it all I had and reach out in the process. If you’re someone out there with the heart for what’s right and do Pro-bono work, or a young lawyer in college law, or could even help with investigative findings, there’s plenty more there to expose in this case that has been wrong from the word go. Thank you so much for taking the time with this mess, attached here you will find true and useful documents contact any and all for your own determinations, and all or recommendations.
    My family, friends, witnesses and I remain ready and look forward to righting a grievous wrong and any assistance in the matter is much and greatly appreciated.
    R. Scott Hinkle
    Cynthia Hinkle Candy Hinkle Dan and Catherine Hinkle
    281-799-0603 210-494-0238 608-269-0570
    Dr. John Tennison Cynthia Cline Tom Moran
    210-884-0990 713-893-7917 713-951-9994

    Thank You,

    Please help my friend feel free to call me 210-264-7429 or 210-967-5691
    Thank You Donna Baker

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *


You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>