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Parker County Privatizing Jail

Today's Fort Worth Star-Telegram has the story that Parker County is privatizing its county jail, turning over operations to CiviGenics.

Grits for Breakfast raises great questions about the purported "cost-savings" that county officials are touting in conjunction with the privatization move:

"I'm highly skeptical of claims that CiviGenics can supply the same services as the county for $17 less - that's a 30% reduction from what the county says it spends now. So is it really possible CiviGenics can perform the same function for 30% less money and actually turn a profit? I find that hard to believe.

Instead, I think taxpayers will likely continue to subsidize the jail beyond the $39 per inmate. Of course, for starters there's the cost of the monitor. And I wonder if that $39 includes all healthcare costs? If CiviGenics cuts corners there, one lawsuit could more than wipe out any short-term savings the county enjoys.

Certainly taxpayers are still liable for any extant bond debt and maintenance costs. What expenditures go into that which aren't included in the $39 figure, I wonder?

What's more, this won't really save taxpayers money. The Sheriff doesn't plan on eliminating deputies' positions by turning the jail over to CiviGenics, but "increasing the number of deputies who patrol county roads." Taxpayers will still foot the bill for their salaries, which are a major portion of of jail costs (plus new patrol-related equipment costs) on top of the salaries for the privatized jailers. So let's be clear: In the end, taxpayers will pay more."

Considering a Private Prison, Jail or Detention Center: A Resource Guide for Public Officials (PDF) has more reasons why a private jail or detention center can do more harm than good for a county's bottom-line.

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