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Sign-on Letter on Dawson State Jail Catches Press

Last week, a coalition of 25 national and state groups released a letter calling for the closure of the Dawson State Jail, a Corrections Corporation of America-operated facility in downtown Dallas.  

Criminal justice, civil liberties, policy, labor, and faith-based organizations signed onto a document delivered to Texas legislators.  The letter cites the exceptionally poor conditions at the facility for both staff and incarcerated people, cost savings, and a significant decrease in the Texas state jail population.  Signatories included the ACLU, ASFCME, the Texas Criminal Justice Coalition, Grassroots Leadership, and Justice Strategies.  You can read the letter and a full list of signatories here.

Ginger Allen, who has been covering the scandals at the Dawson State Jail, interviewed Bob Libal for CBS DFW.  Bob, executive director of Grassroots Leadership and columnist for this blog, said in the Skype interview:

"It has become abundantly clear this facility is unsafe for the people who are incarcerated in the facility and there is a growing momentum around the state and the country to close this facility."

The Dallas Morning News also picked up the story:

"State leaders have been trying to reduce the number of inmates in recent years because of cost concerns. In 2011, a prison unit was closed for the first time without replacement. At the same time, Dallas city leaders have been eyeing the property where the Dawson jail sits on the edge of downtown for redevelopment." 

The Texas Tribune quoted Ana Yáñez-Correa, director of Texas Criminal Justice Coalition (a signatory to the letter), as saying:

"Closing a facility like Dawson State Jail would save taxpayer dollars that can be better spent on programs that work."

Even CCA weighed in.  They released a statement calling the coalition "closed-minded" and claimed to provide "safe housing and quality rehabilitation programming at a cost savings to Texas taxpayers."  (Insert your own joke here).