Controversial Allegheny County Jail contractor has criminal history, served time in U.K.

The contractor, Joseph Garcia, also once warned of a race war against correctional officers

By: - September 3, 2021 6:30 am

The Allegheny County Jail in Pittsburgh (Photo via The Pittsburgh Current).

By Ryan Deto

PITTSBURGH — Late last month, Allegheny County issued $400,000 worth of no-bid contracts to C-SAU, or Corrections Special Applications Unit, and Lightfield Less Lethal Research, for military style training and less-lethal weapons for correctional officers at the Allegheny County Jail.

The contract was swiftly met with criticism from local advocacy group the Abolitionist Law Center, who threatened to sue the county if it moved forward with the contract, saying that the contract could lead to use of excessive force against incarcerated individuals and that C-SAU leader Joseph Garcia had a history of training correctional officers to perceive incarcerated people antagonistically.

“[Garcia] trains officers to view their jobs as ‘going to battle with’ detainees, and to see themselves as ‘warriors’ against them,” Bret Grote, of the ALC , told county officials in an Aug. 24 letter.

Now, it has been revealed that Garcia pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit grievous bodily harm in the United Kingdom in 1989, and was sentenced to 2.5 years in a British prison. Additionally, Garcia said in a 2020 magazine interview that following the death of George Floyd, he was concerned there would be a race war against correctional officers.

According to a report in the U.S. military’s independent newspaper Stars and Stripes, Garcia pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit grievous bodily harm in connection to a plot to beat up a British man. At the time Garcia was moonlighting as a bouncer in Cambridge, England, and formerly served as a gate guard at Royal Air Force Mildenhall while serving oversees.

Garcia was paid at least $9,600 to be “hired muscle” in a plot to beat up the man, but it was never carried out as the man ended up incarcerated on a different, unrelated case, according to the York Daily Record, which verified the information.

The contract between C-SAU and the York County Prison in central Pennsylvania also has come under scrutiny. Allegheny County Councilor at-large Bethany Hallam has been critical of the contract with C-SAU from the start. She says this news about Garcia is another reason why the Allegheny County Jail should not be working with C-SAU.

“We should never have reached this point. To say Garcia, his companies, and his track record are full of red flags would be an understatement,” Hallam said. “His own words on the many podcasts, interviews, and shows he’s done, clearly demonstrate he isn’t at all interested in de-escalation, only maximalist violence. The county and the jail should be ashamed they ever even began a contractual relationship with this entity, let alone are fighting to maintain it.”

Allegheny County officials did not return a request for comment. C-SAU also did not return a request for comment.

In the ALC’s letter to county officials asking them to cancel any contracts with C-SAU, the group says Garcia’s trainings at C-SAU, and other training companies he has overseen or directed, “violate correctional standards and federal laws, are the subject of civil litigation and criminal inquiries, and have resulted in serious injuries and the death of incarcerated people.”

According to TribLive, Charleston County Council in South Carolina agreed to a $10 million settlement in July for the death of a 31-year-old mentally ill man in their county jail after the man was tased at least six times, sprayed with pepper spray, and held down because he refused to leave his cell for a bond hearing. That South Carolina jail used Garcia and his company for training, according to court documents.

Additionally, Garcia also spoke to Tactical Life magazine in 2020 about correctional officers’ role in the aftermath of George Floyd’s death and the social movement that followed. When asked about Floyd’s death, Garcia said that there has been a lot of “racial tension” inside jails and prisons and that there will be imminent race riots inside prisons.

It is unclear if there were any race riots targeting correctional officers in U.S. prisons following George Floyd’s death. Under the direction of former President Donald Trump, the federal Bureau of Prisons ordered a national lockdown following the protests that occurred after Floyd’s death.

Jaclyn Kurin of the Abolitionist Law Center says Garcia is espousing “racist ideologies,” and called again on Allegheny County officials to break the contract with C-SAU.

“The racist ideologies that Mr. Garcia teaches to corrections officers have no place in the jail or society,” says Kurin. “It is unconscionable that any county official or the warden would condone Garcia’s methods that teach corrections officers to use excessive force and apply it based on one’s race.”

Ryan Deto is a reporter for Pittsburgh City Paper, where this story first appeared

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