Commissioners in McLennan County voted on Tuesday to end the county's contract with Community Education Centers to run the Jack Harwell Detention Center. The commissioners voted unanimously to seek proposals from new vendors in March and have decided to team up with LaSalle Corrections.
The detention center has been a strain on McLennan County since before construction began in 2008. The county was hoping to pay off $49 million in bonds floated by its Public Facilities Corporation and generate revenue by holding federal prisoners but never saw the numbers they anticipated. In 2012, the Texas Commission on Jail Standards found the facility non-compliant and ICE dropped their contract at the time altogether, citing substandard care. Currently, the facility is at less than half capacity and housing overflow from the county jail.
According to an article in the Waco Tribune, the commissioners selected LaSalle because of its "stability and its track record of persuading federal agencies to contract for its services." They must have missed the troubles in Burnet County, where a LaSalle-run jail was deemed non-complaint by the Texas Commission on Jail Standards in 2009 and in 2012; the company has been cited for failures in security, medical care, and recreation at the Burnet County Jail. McLennan County might have gotten out of the frying pan and into the fire if the situation at Jack Harwell Detention Center turns out like Burnet County Jail.