Former Employee Sues Immigrant Lockup Contractor

A former corrections employee is suing prison contractor The GEO Group, operator of the federal Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) detention facility in Aurora.

In a suit filed in Denver District Court, former GEO employee Celia Ramirez alleges the company failed to follow its own anti-discrimination policies.According to the suit, filed in December, Ramirez was employed by GEO as a detention officer at the Aurora ICE lockup for just over two years before being fired for failing to return lockup keys to their designated area.

However, in the suit Ramirez contends that another GEO worker, Jennifer Beauman, took the keys and placed them on the facility’s roof to retaliate against the plaintiff for reporting the employee for inappropriate conduct.

According to the suit, Beauman is reported to have engaged in erratic behavior, such as angrily slamming doors and flicking lights on and off in the presence of inmates. Attempts to reach Beauman were unsuccessful.

The suit alleges Beauman “joked” about taking the keys to get back at Ramirez, before the keys went missing. A maintenance worker is reported to have later found the keys on the facility’s rooftop.

The crux of the lawsuit contends that Ramirez was discriminated against for her gender and Latino ethnicity, and that GEO failed to enforce written policies of barring gender or race discrimination as stipulated in the company’s employee handbook.

Pablo Paez, a spokesman for the GEO Group, said that it is the company’s corporate policy not to discuss pending litigation.

Lisa Sahli, the attorney who filed the suit, said that Ramirez had obtained another attorney and that she could not speak further on the case because she is no longer Ramirez’s legal counsel. Attempts to contact Ramirez were also unsuccessful.

The suit comes as GEO is set to expand its Aurora ICE facility by more than 1000 beds, tripling the current threshold of 400 beds.

Ramirez is seeking to bring the case to a jury, according to court documents.

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About the Author

Erin Rosa

Erin Rosa was born in Spain and raised in Colorado Springs. She is a freelance writer currently living in Denver. Rosa's work has been featured in a variety of news outlets including the Huffington Post, Democracy Now!, and the Rocky Mountain Chronicle, an alternative-weekly in Northern Colorado where she worked as a columnist covering the state legislature.

Rosa has received awards from the Society of Professional Journalists for her reporting on lobbying and woman's health issues. She was also tapped with a rare honorable mention award by the Newspaper Guild-CWA's David S. Barr Award in 2008--only the second such honor conferred in its nine-year history--for her investigative series covering the federal government's Supermax prison in the state.

Rosa covers the labor community, corrections, immigration and government transparency matters.

She can be reached at erosa@coloradoindependent.com.

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