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Committee Hearing on Bill to Change Privatization Procedure in Counties

Last Thursday, the Texas House County Affairs Committee heard testimony on HB 1544 [online text has been corrected], which would change the way counties contract with private vendors to operate prisons and detention centers.  

As it stands now, sheriffs of counties with a population under 2.8 million (every county besides Harris) have a "seat at the table" when it comes to privatization; in Harris County, decisions about privatization are left to the County Commisioners and the Commision on Jail Standards.  The bill, introduced by Alma Allen, would eliminate the exception placed on Harris County.

Caitlin Dunklee, policy analyst at Texas Criminal Justice Coalition, and Harris County Sheriff Garcia both spoke in favor of the bill, citing sheriffs' expertize and responsibility for the workings of a prison.  Harris County is the seat of the largest sheriff's office in Texas and the third largest in the nation, as well as the state's largest jail.