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Private Commissary Contracts Lead to Corruption in Bexar County

The San Antonio Express News recently investigated the relationship between the Bexar County Jail's private commissary contract, the Sheriff’s office and the Louisiana based company Premier Management Enterprises.

According to reports, officials close to Sheriff Ralph Lopez are being investigated by the District Attorney's office following the disclosure that Premier deposited four checks totaling $27,500 into accounts named for charities that were "shells" and "fronts," according to court documents.

Sheriff Lopez established the Benevolent Fund corporation board several years ago to run the jail commissary. We recently posted that the jail was over capacity in recent months. The large jail capacity means greater commissary revenues and benefits Premier's bottom line. During 2005, the jail's commissary generated $2 million in gross profits.

The $27,500 was funneled through the Benevolent Fund corporation. John Reynolds, who chairs the Board, is currently under investigation by the Bexar County District Attorney public corruption investigators, the FBI, and the Texas Rangers. Reynolds has strong ties to Sheriff Lopez, who he has known for at least 15 years. Previously, Lopez hired Reynolds as his campaign manager for years and once made Reynolds his chief of staff.

The apparent corruption now involves the Board's Vice Chairman -- John E. Curran III. He was in position to benefit financially from a deal with Premier as well. Curran's temporary worker company, PersoNet, now provides the very commissary employees that Premier uses to implement its private jail commissary contract.

Scandals like this emphasize that private jail and prison contracts must be closely monitored through preventive mechanisms and not simply reactive ones. Reactive oversight only comes into place following the surfacing of some scandal or event like a death or escape. Yet, preventive oversight can reduce the prevalence of such events and strengthen public safety. Preventive oversight, which can be achieved through a close review of private contracts and other conditions issues, will ensure that high standards are adhered too and public trust is maintained.

Comments

I am interested in knowing why $50.00 goes so quickly in commisary items. My son is in the Bexar County Jail at the age of 17 and he goes thru $50.00 a week very fast.Just to eat, what is wrong with this picture?? How much does everything cost??Its not like this jail is a Luxurious Golf Country Club, Where is this money going?? and to who?? Who sets these crazy prices?This jail is very ugly and run down. We are paying taxes to have a jail look like this!!and for these inmates to eat like this??? Come on.Also, Someone needs to investigate quite a few cases on there seriousness of who is putting these inmates in jail, I know of a few Pre trial officers who have thrown people in this jail for very small reasons, not serious enough to spend our tax payers money, thats why you are over crowded, because of wrong decisions on the pre trial officers over worked and women (overstressed) and overreacting on a moments notice.Could this be called (PMS)??Probably!!

I know of several jails and prisons including federal where the prices are 100% over then what the cost should be, I also know that they claim the extra's are going towards movies and cable, which we all know isn't over thousands a weeks.

For example a small bar of dove will cost about 3.00, and white rain like 12.00, really high priced.

I then heard that some of these commonsaries are contracted out which also puts people in a position of very high prices.

Another example is off brands sugar like the dollar trees that sell for 300 and up also a skien of yarn sells of 3.00 and more this is the same yarn the dollar store/big lots and walmart sell for 88 cents to 1.00

I know this is price gaulaging and I have no idea on how to help the inmates