You are here

City of McAllen Considering a Private Prison

The Grassroots Leadership blog reports: 

This week, we learned that McAllen, TX has been keeping a dirty secret.  Located at the southern tip of Texas in the Rio Grande Valley, the city plans to publish a formal request for qualifications this week from private prison operators willing to build a new 1,000-bed lock-up.  The new prison would house federal prisoners for the U.S. Marshals Service (USMS) under an existing agreement with the city. 

As it turns out, the McAllen Monitor learned a year ago that city officials had been talking to GEO Group behind closed doors, but agreed not to report it to avoid "tipping off potential competitors and skunking the deal."

Other Texas towns and counties that have teamed up with for-profit prison companies have landed themselves in deep financial distress.  Montgomery County recented sold the Joe Corley Detention Center to GEO Group to cover $38 million in debt.  The Bill Clayton Detention Center has been a headache for Littlefield since disturbing conditions led Idaho to terminate its contract, leaving the town to foot the bill for an empty facility.

GEO Group's track record is just as bad, both in Texas and across the country.  In Mississippi, assault rates at private prisons are three times higher than in publically-run prisons; reports and lawsuits out of Walnut Grove Youth Correctional Facility, then operated by GEO Group, alleged rampant gang violence, smuggling, sexual assault, and dangerously low staffing levels.

With a pricetag of $50 million and untold human rights abuses, McAllen still has time to see what a new prison would really cost.