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For-profit jail exec to testify in Congressional committee after accusations of unnecessary medical procedures

The executive director of LaSalle Corrections is expected to testify Dec. 9. The company runs multiple county jails and immigration detention facilities in Texas.

An embattled, private company that runs multiple for-profit jails in Texas is now in the hot seat with Congress after a whistleblower complaint was filed in Georgia, claiming unnecessary gynecological procedures were being performed on immigrant detainees.

WFAA investigations repeatedly have shown that the LaSalle Corrections guards and staff failed to give appropriate medical treatment to people who get sick while locked up in their jails.

The House Homeland Security Committee issued a subpoena last week to LaSalle Corrections’ executive director, Rodney Cooper. The subpoena demanded Cooper testify on Dec. 9 over allegations made by a former nurse at its Irwin County Detention Center in Ocilla, Ga.

The nurse filed a whistleblower complaint in September alleging that unnecessary gynecological procedures were being performed on immigrant detainees, according to media accounts. One former detainee told Vox that her Fallopian tube was taken out without her agreeing to the procedure.

Earlier this month, the company announced it was ending its contract with Bowie County to operate its county jail facilities in Texarkana.

LaSalle had operated the county jail for the last decade.

“I cried,” said Jennifer Houser, whose daughter, Morgan Angerbauer, died inside a jail cell from a lack of insulin in 2016. “I was so happy, a lot of emotions but then they still run other facilities and that bothers me.”

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Morgan Angerbauer

The company settled a lawsuit with Houser over Angerbauer’s death.

In a statement, LaSalle company spokesman Scott Sutterfield told WFAA that “LaSalle Corrections and Bowie County exercised mutual discretionary authority to terminate without cause contractual agreements” to operate the county’s jail facilities.

The county’s sheriff will take over the operation of the jail Feb. 12.

Sutterfield declined to comment on the situation in Georgia, writing that “Company policy prohibits comment during pending reviews."

“However, we can assure you the allegations are being investigated by independent government office’s and LaSalle Corrections is fully cooperating,” he said. “I can also say that LaSalle Corrections strongly refutes any implications of misconduct at ICDC (Irwin County Detention Center).”

For more than two years, WFAA has been investigating the way LaSalle runs its county jails in Texas.

RELATED: Watch the last 48 hours of a woman's battle for life inside a Texas for-profit jail

Because of WFAA reporting, state lawmakers closed a loophole that allowed county jailers to be on the job for up to a year with virtually no training. Lawmakers also imposed new requirements on private companies operating county jails.

Besides Texarkana, the company operates jails in Parker, Fannin and Johnson counties. It also operates Fort Worth jail’s booking intake, as well as immigration detention facilities in Haskell, Alvarado and Sierra Blanca.

“There's something about the company and I think it starts at the top with leadership that dehumanizes people,” said Texarkana attorney David Carter, who represented Houser in her wrongful-death lawsuit.

He also represents other families in lawsuits filed against the company.

“We've argued for some time that the county needed to take the facility back over because LaSalle has demonstrated it's not going to follow the constitution so we welcome the move,” Carter said.

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