Testimony: Congressional Hearing

REPORT: RESPONSIBLE PRISON REFORM

HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES SUBCOMMITTEE ON CRIME, TERRORISM, HOMELAND SECURITY, AND INVESTIGATIONS COMMITTEE ON THE JUDICIARY

Washington, DC. The Subcommittee met, pursuant to call, at 10:01 a.m., in room 2141, Rayburn House Office Building, the Honorable F. Francis Scott, Jr. (Chairman of the Subcommittee) presiding.

Representatives present: Rogers, Morgan, Peterson, and Cooper.

Witnesses present: Harold McCarns, CEO, CORECORP, Dr. William Barnes, CORECORP

Chairman Scott. We’re here to discuss the program INPACT or “Inmate Pacification and Control by Transformation” that caused the death of one inmate, a Mr. Fernando Hernandez, and affected fifty-four others. Representative Rogers, you are recognized for five minutes.

Representative Rogers. Thank you very much, and thank you to each of the witnesses. Mr. McCarns, are you aware of the details of this program?

Mr. McCarns. Yes sir, I have recently been made aware of the existence of INPACT.

Representative Rogers. Well? What have you to say about it? Did you consider the taking of the life of one of your inmates justified?

Mr. McCarns. Absolutely not. In fact, the death of the inmate caused the INPACT program to be terminated and the authorities notified. Mr. Hernandez was a valuable asset to our corporation, and his death is regrettable.

Representative Rogers. Please describe this program and the intended goals.

Mr. McCarns. INPACT’s goal was to reduce costs in servicing and supporting housing units, specifically, the most expensive, Level IV, by treating inmates with a genetically engineered pathogen that would reduce their propensity toward violence and aggression. The program was actually successful with many of the subjects.

Representative Rogers. Let me get this straight. You drugged the inmates to make them more compliant?

Mr. McCarns. Absolutely not! That would be illegal. Pharmaceutical therapy for that purpose is strictly forbidden. INPACT wasn’t a drug. It was a one time treatment which would rehabilitate the inmate and allow their eventual return to society as a productive and safe individual. If you recall, H.R.5682 FIRST STEP Act, which you voted for, allows private correctional facilities wide latitude in their methods of inmate rehabilitation, including non-pharmaceutical medical treatments. Typically, these treatments would be psychiatric and behavioral oriented, but they simply weren’t cost effective, nor were they permanent.

Representative Rogers. Yes, FIRST STEP, I recall the bill. I don’t believe the intention of the bill allowed genetic alteration of the inmates.

Mr. McCarns. I’d like Dr. William Barnes, the director of inmate health for CORECORP, to discuss the technical details of INPACT.

Chairman Scott. Thank you, Mr. McCarns. The next witness we will hear from is Dr. Barnes. Representative Rogers still has the floor.

Dr. Barnes. The INPACT program didn’t alter the DNA of the subjects. It only altered their current physiology in that certain regions of the brain were diminished and hormone production altered.

Representative Rogers. So you’re saying they were chemically lobotomized?

Dr. Barnes. Hardly lobotomized. Comparing lobotomy to the delicate function of the INPACT treatment is like comparing nuclear weapons to laser guided smart bombs. The treatment was ingenious and really a work of magnificent genetic engineering of a common virus.

Representative Rogers. So what went wrong? Why did Mr. Hernandez perish?

Mr. McCarns. I’d like to answer that question if I may, Mr. Chairman.

Chairman Scott. Go ahead, Mr. McCarns.

Mr. McCarns. During trial tests of the INPACT treatment, it was discovered that some individuals became asymptomatic carriers of the virus used in the treatment. They were totally resistant to the vaccine and would be a threat to, not only the general population of the prison, but the entire human race. Mr. Hernandez was an asymptomatic carrier.

Representative Rogers. You’re going to have to clarify what you meant by “a threat to the entire human race”.

Mr. McCarns. I’d like Dr. Barnes to comment on that, Mr. Chairman.

Chairman Scott. Dr. Barnes, please continue.

Dr. Barnes. The treatment process involved two stages. First, the subject was infected with an engineered virus. After approximately ten days, symptoms of the infection manifested and the subject became incapacitated. This is the critical time period when the action of the virus upon the subject’s brain begins. Depending on the subject and the degree to which the treatment is required, the vaccine is administered, typically two days after symptoms show, which halts the process, renders the subject immune to the virus, and they recover quickly, usually less than three days hence. During the time from the first exposure to vaccination, they are communicable and can transmit the virus to other unvaccinated people. We keep them in isolation during this time to prevent inadvertent transmission. If the virus had been released into the general population, the infection would have spread and infected countless innocent people. Without the vaccine, mass casualties would have resulted, potentially billions of individuals.

Representative Rogers. How contagious is this virus?

Dr. Barnes. INPACT is transmitted by direct bodily contact or contact with an infected person’s bodily fluids. It is very contagious and would likely infect virtually everyone.

Representative Rogers. You’re talking a worldwide pandemic of epic proportions. Your corporation would be responsible for that. Mr. McCarns, did you mention this to your insurance carriers prior to taking on this liability?

Mr. McCarns. Yes. We had a rider to cover that eventuality. We took special precautions as a result.

Representative Rogers. What precautions did you take to prevent the inadvertent release of this disease?

Dr. Barns. We took exceptional precautions. Every member of the staff and contractors involved were vaccinated. Every visitor to the facility, regardless of the reason, was not only required to be vaccinated, but also signed a waiver of liability. In all, 735 people were vaccinated as a preventative measure. I would add that this was at great cost to the company. We made sure the treatment wouldn’t be released outside of the controlled subjects.

Representative Rogers. What would happen if the virus infected the general population outside the prison?

Dr. Barns. We believe it could be approximately 99% fatal without the vaccine.

Representative Rogers. Are you trying to be humorous?

Dr. Barns. No, Representative Rogers, this is not a laughing matter.

Representative Rogers. I’m sure we are all very relieved that you managed to keep it contained.

Chairman Scott. Representative Rogers, your time is up. Will you yield the floor to Representative Morgan for five minutes?

Representative Rogers. I yield the floor.

Chairman Scott. Representative Morgan, you have the floor for five minutes.

Representative Morgan. Thank you very much Representative Rogers and Mr. Chairman. Mr. McCarns, how much compensation has been paid to the family of Mr. Hernandez?

Mr. McCarns. I’m afraid Mr. Hernandez has no family we can locate. He supposedly came to this country from Cuba and became a permanent resident under the “Wet-Foot-Dry-Foot” program. He’s never received any personal mail or visitors in the eighteen years he’s been incarcerated. We did a Genetic Genealogy search to try and locate his relatives in Cuba, and the result appears to be that he’s not actually Cuban but from El Salvador. He apparently lied to the immigration authorities about his background to gain entry into the United States.

Representative Morgan. So you’re saying no compensation has been paid for his death?

Mr. McCarns. That’s correct.

Representative Morgan. And you did an exhaustive search for any possible relatives in the United States?

Mr. McCarns. That’s correct. We were prepared to pay a substantial amount in compensation, the maximum amount allowed by our insurance rider to his family. Unfortunately, none was located, and we have suspended the search.

Representative Morgan. That is very commendable of you Mr. McCarns. I would like to add that CORECORP has been an excellent corporate citizen and has responsibly executed their government contracts without overruns or added costs. I, and all my constituents, would like to thank Mr. McCarns and CORECORP for their dedication to the safety and well being of their charges. I yield the floor, Mr. Chairman.

Chairman Scott. Thank you Representative Morgan. Please let the record show that the corporate headquarters and majority of CORECORP’s facilities are in Representative Morgan’s district. Representative Peterson, you have five minutes.

Representative Peterson. Thank you very much, Mr. Chairman. Unlike Representative Morgan, I am upset at the entire idea of altering a person’s physiology to make them cheaper to manage. What gives you the right to do this? Why isn’t this panel morally outraged?

Mr. McCarns. Representative Peterson, if you recall, it was you who attached the rider to our funding bill that changed our cost plus contract to a fixed fee per inmate. We have an obligation to our shareholders to provide the greatest possible return on their investment. While morality is a nice thing to claim here, you should have considered the consequences of changing our contract and placing our shareholder’s investment at risk.

Representative Peterson. So you did this because of shareholder value? Is that your claim?

Mr. McCarns. We broke no laws when we entered into the contract with SingBio. Perhaps you should be discussing this with Dr. Gary Singleton, the founder of that company. It was he who administered the drug that killed Mr. Hernandez. He did so without approval or knowledge from us. We would have never condoned such a thing.

Representative Peterson. Is Dr. Singleton here now for questioning? I don’t see him on the witness list.

Mr. McCarns. Dr. Singleton was indicted for manslaughter and fled the country before he could be apprehended. We traced his possible locations to either China or South America. We’ve fully cooperated with the FBI and local authorities in giving depositions and providing evidence as to his crime. We have done everything legally required to comply with our contract with the Federal Government and all appropriate laws regarding treatment of inmates in our facilities.

Representative Peterson. Yet Mr. Hernandez is dead.

Mr. McCarns. In Dr. Singleton’s defense, he must have believed he had no choice. Mr. Hernandez did present a threat to the rest of the world. He would have remained contagious throughout his life and keeping him in isolation for that time would have cost our company greatly. Our shareholders have been relieved of that burden thanks to Dr. Singleton’s actions, horrific that they may be.

Representative Peterson. What you’re saying reminds me of Hannah Arendt’s book, Banality of Evil, where she concludes that Adolf Eichmann’s decisive flaw in his character was his inability ever to look at anything from the other fellow’s point-of-view. Did you or your company ever consider the point-of-view of the inmates when you contracted Dr. Singleton for his treatment?

Mr. McCarns. I’m afraid I don’t know of the reference.

Representative Peterson. Of course you don’t. What punitive action has been taken against company personnel as a result of Mr. Hernandez’s death?

Mr. McCarns. The director of the unit, the man who brought Dr. Singleton into the program, has been suspended pending a review.

Representative Peterson. Anything else? Suspending the director? Has anyone else been held responsible for this heinous act?

Mr. McCarns. Since no laws were broken by CORECORP, we saw no need. Calling the INPACT program heinous is rather over the top, don’t you think so, Mr. Representative?

Representative Peterson. Okay, I can see this is going nowhere. I guess I’ve heard enough. I yield the floor.

Chairman Scott. Thank you, Representative Peterson. Representative Cooper, you have five minutes.

Representative Cooper. Thank you, Mr. Chairman. Mr. McCarns, was the INPACT program successful? Can you share the results?

Mr. McCarns. It might have been, but unfortunately, the wrong population was selected for the test program. The majority of the Level IV facility inmates had physical characteristics that led to the exact opposite reaction to the treatment as intended. Instead of them becoming more compliant and easier to manage, many became more difficult to manage and uncooperative. Twenty-two of the inmates are now confined to solitary and will cost CORECORP over 100% more than estimated prior to the treatment. Thirty-two of the subjects in the program did become more manageable, and when eligible for parole, will likely be released and live happy, productive lives. The cost savings from the entire program is neutral and will not affect financial guidance in the future.

Representative Cooper. What physical characteristics were problematic?

Dr. Barnes. I’d like to answer that if I may. Statistical analysis indicates when the subject’s total muscle mass exceeded 90%, they had the opposite reaction to the treatment than intended. Subjects under this threshold had positive results. The Level IV inmate population has a very high average muscle mass, greater than 90%, so they are just not suited for this program.

Representative Cooper. Are you going to use INPACT at another facility? It seems you could try again with a better selection of facility. It actually seems promising.

Mr. McCarns. We destroyed all materials related to INPACT and will not pursue this avenue of cost savings again. The liability is too high, and we cannot tolerate the potential for another Mr. Hernandez. We’ve made the decision, and this is only now going public, to sell our Level IV units to a company that can better handle the high-risk inmates.

Representative Cooper. Well, I can understand that in light of the unreasonable fixed price contracts you’re subject to. What company did you sell to? Can you release the details?

Mr. McCarns. Until the contract is fully executed, I can only say it is a firm with many years experience dealing with high-risk individuals. They are headquartered in Russia.

Representative Cooper. Thank you very much for your honest and straightforward answers to our questions. I yield the floor back.

Chairman Scott. I have a few questions. Mr. McCarns or Dr. Barnes, how did Dr. Singleton determine that Mr. Hernandez posed a threat to the health and well being of the human race?

Dr. Barnes. I’d like to address this. Dr. Singleton informed us that asymptomatic carriers would be a possibility, however, he placed the odds at someone like Mr. Hernandez emerging out of the test program at so infinitesimally small as to be statistically insignificant. Perhaps he minimized that threat a bit since he did test every apparent immune subject carefully for the presence of the active virus before releasing them into the prison population. I suspect he knew all along that it was much more likely.

Chairman Scott. So you believe he was less than completely honest about the potential risks?

Dr. Barnes. Yes. We had to rely on his data, which appeared to be quite good. To his credit,  Dr. Singleton was extremely thorough in his testing of the subjects. He did numerous tests, both psychological and physiological, to understand how his organism would react. Mr. Hernandez, himself, a rather diabolical and brilliant criminal, was rendered to slightly above intellectually disabled by the treatment. That was the only outward indication that he was a carrier. Dr. Singleton could test subjects for failures of the vaccine, an exhaustive and expensive process, or simply give them a simple word test to see if they had been affected.

Chairman Scott. A word test? How did that work?

Dr. Barnes. It was quite simple and in itself a brilliant bit of work by Dr. Singleton. To test a subject for being a possible asymptomatic carrier, a string of six words would be spoken to the subject who was required to recite them back in the same order. For instance, the string cheeseburger with lettuce, tomato, mayo, onion, and pickle would be sufficient to screen for this case.

Chairman Scott. That’s interesting, Dr. Barnes. It seems to me that the vast majority of fast food workers would fail that test as well.

Dr. Barnes. Dr. Singleton eliminated those from the program to start with. He only used inmates of average or above intelligence.

Chairman Scott. Dr. Gary Singleton’s name is familiar to me. Wasn’t he the one involved in the scandal regarding manipulation of drug trial data that caused the failure of his biotech and the loss of billions by hundreds of thousands of members of the investment community?

Dr. Barnes. The manipulation of data in those drug trials could be traced to a subordinate, and Gary was vindicated during peer review.

Chairman Scott. Still, didn’t that raise a red flag?

Dr. Barnes. I wasn’t part of the review process for the INPACT program.

Mr. McCarns. Mr. Chairman, if I may respond to that, the director of the unit, who has been suspended, was responsible for making that decision.

Chairman Scott. Does anyone have any further questions or comments?

Mr. McCarns. I’d like to thank you for the opportunity to provide testimony to your committee. CORECORP is committed to open and responsible government, and we are always available for your questions and concerns.

Chairman Scott. Thank you. We appreciate all of our witnesses for taking the time to appear before the Committee today. I want to remind Members, should they wish to submit additional questions for the record, the hearing record will be open for five business days. And with that, our Committee is adjourned.