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Big Stories of 2011 - #1 - CCA Take-over Could Make Harris County Jail Largest Private Prison

To round out 2011, Texas Prison Bid'ness is highlighting the top five private prison stories of the year. Looking forward to the new year, our #1 story of 2011 is the current proposal to privatize the entire Harris County Jail system.

Over the summer, Nicole reported that Harris County issued a request for pr

oposals in June seeking proposals for the management of the entire jail system of approximately 10,000 beds. At the time, the Houston Chronicle ("Harris County leaders consider privatizing the jail," April 18) speculated that the proposal was merely political sparring between County Commissioner Steve Radack, a privatization proponent, and Sheriff Adrian Garcia, who opposes privatization.  

However, recent reports indicate that the proposal may be much more serious.  As our friend Scott Henson over at Grits for Breakfast reported last week, Corrections Corporation of America has already submitted a bid to manage the entire Harris County Jail system.  (Scott also kindly posted the RFP that he obtained from and Open Records Request). Scott asks some tough questions about the process thus far:

"Why is the process "confidential" (read: secret) in the first place? Why are privatization schemes being hatched in private instead of in public discussions? Why do CCA investors know more about privatization plans for the Harris County Jail than local media and the taxpayers? The Harris County Jail is bigger than the prison systems in half the states; should something this big really be done in a back-room deal before the public even knows it's happening?"

If privatized, the Harris County Jail - a massive system of more than 10,000 beds - could be the largest for-profit private prison in the country, and obviously a huge boon for Corrections Corporation of America.  The proposal will undoubtedly draw opposition from community groups and the Sheriff's officers union.  The fight over privatizing the Harris County Jail could very likely be our big story of 2012 as well.

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They shouldn't opperate in houston especially harris county jail