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Littlefield bets on Avalon and TDCJ to save Bill Clayton Detention Center

The city of Littlefield, saddled with debt for its emtpy Bill Clayton Detention Center,

has turned to a new operator and a new potential client base in an effort to save its troubled facility.  According to an article in the Lubbok Avalance-Times ("Prison Hope: Littlefield starts new year with possible new tenant for empty detention center," January 3), the facility is now contracting with Avalon Corrections:

The city of Littlefield comes into 2011 hoping it will have a new tenant renting the Bill Clayton Detention Center in a few months. The prison, which closed in January 2009 after the Idaho Department of Corrections canceled a contract with private operator GEO Group and moved its prisoners from Littlefield to Oklahoma.

Since then, the city has stretched itself financially to keep making payments on revenue bonds it issues to build the facility, which opened in 2000 as a juvenile detention center. The present ray of hope comes with Avalon Correctional Services, which has applied to TDCJ to operate an Intermediate Sanction Facility, which is a short-term facility that houses offenders who violate terms of their community supervision or paroles.

As the article mentions, the facilty was closed in 2008 after the state of Idaho pulled its prisoners from the then-GEO operated facility.  The cutting of this contract followed the suicide of Randall McCullough, an Idaho prisoner who killed himself after being reportedly being held in solitary confinement for more than a year. The GEO Group was sued in a massive suit by the family of McCullough. 

Since Idaho pulled its prisoners and the GEO Group dropped the facility, the city has struggled to pay its debt on the facility and had turned the facility's operation over to Southwestern Correctional. The present ray of hope may not be a big one.  The state legislature is facing a an estimated $27 billion deficit, and the closure of private prison facilities has been floated by key legislators. I have a hard time believing that Avalon would be able to secure a TDCJ contract.  The company does not have any contracts with the agency, though it has pumped some money into Texas lobbying recently.  We'll keep you posted on developments.