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New Hutto Contracts Block Detainee 9-1-1 Calls

Via the T. Don Hutto blog and from an excellent report by Taylor Daily Press ("ICE Blocks 9-1-1 Calls from T. Don Hutto," ) reporter Philip Jankowski, a new contract signed by Williamson County would ban detainees at Corrections Corporation of America's T. Don Hutto family detention center from making 911 emergency calls. According to the story,

Outgoing 9-1-1 calls placed by immigrants detained at T. Don Hutto Residential Facility in Taylor will soon be blocked after Immigration Customs Enforcement changes the phone system in the former prison.

The block affects telephones used specifically by immigrants housed in the facility. Also blocked will be all incoming phone calls.

The change came as part of a change in the contract between Williamson County and Immigration Customs Enforcement billed as "Modification ... relating to Low Cost Telephone Services" on the county commissioners' agenda Tuesday.

The commissioners voted 5-0 in favor of the item with no discussion of the matter. After the vote, County Judge Dan Gattis said he was unaware the alteration in the agreement effectively blocked outgoing 9-1-1 phone calls.

Of course, this new agreement is especially controversial given the sexual assault scandal at the facility in 2007. The issue is raised in the issue in the article by LULAC activist Jose Orta.

Local League of United Latin American Citizens member and T. Don Hutto critic Jose Orta said ICE and Corrections Corporation of America, which operates the facility, were "covering themselves" from any possible calls to police.

He referenced an alleged sexual assault that occurred in the facility in May of 2007. That incident led to the firing of a CCA employee after he was caught on a surveillance camera sneaking in and out of a detainee's cell.

No charges were ever filed against the employee in that instance because of a now-corrected loophole in federal law.

Check out the debate over in the comments section of T. Don Hutto for more analysis on the need for 911 phone access at T. Don Hutto.

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