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More news on the Dawson State Jail -- Calls grow louder to shut down troubled CCA prison in Dallas

Over the last weeks, advocates to close the Dawson State Jail (including my organization, Grassroots Leadership) have made major headway with a promising vote in the legislature, a vigil, and a lawsuit:

1) Last Monday, we learned that movement to close Dawson is progressing through the Texas state legislature.  In a press release, Senator Royce West of Dallas stated that

[...] the Senate Finance Committee followed the recommendations of a criminal justice workgroup that proposed the non-renewal of the contract with the Corrections Corporation of America (CCA) that currently has an agreement with the state for the operation of the Dawson State Jail facility.

West called the Senate Finance Committee recommendation to end the state's with contract Corrections Corporation of America a "very important step."

2) Community members from Dallas and Austin -- including representatives from Grassroots Leadership, Texas Inmate Families Association, Texas Civil Rights Project, ACLU Texas, AFSMCE, and Occupy Dallas -- convened outside the Dawson State Jail on Thursday for a candlelight vigil.  On the eve of International Women's Day, they invoked the memory of the women and infant who died inside this awful facility and called on legislators to shut it down.  Journalist Ginger Allen of CBS DFW, who has been covering the facility for months, reported live from the scene:

 

 

3) Autumn Miller, whose baby lived only four days after a tragic pregnancy at Dawson, is filing a lawsuit alleging cruel and unusual punishment.  The courageous young woman told her story in an interview with Ginger Allen and with KERA (NPR in North Texas), detailing how her cries for help were ignored from the time she asked for a pregnancy test until she found herself giving birth alone in the toilet of a holding cell.

Texans can contact their legislators about the issue here, and advocates have started using #CloseDawson on Twitter to send updates around the campaign.  With Senator Whitmire giving closure a "better than 50-50" shot and Senator West declaring that "by the end of the session, it will be closed," there seems to be a distinct possibility that Texas may close a private prison this year.