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McLennan County's Jack Harwell lock-up still under-filled as ICE doesn't send detained immigrants to Waco

McLennan County is still struggling to fill its speculatively-built Jack Harwell Detention Center, according to an article in the Waco Tribune ("ICE detainees never delivered to county’s jail," August 27) this week:

"McLennan County officials said the 200 detainees U. S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement promised to the county’s private jail didn’t come.

Chief Sheriff’s Deputy Matt Cawthon said ICE told the county the detainees would be delivered to the Jack Harwell Detention Center on Highway 6 at the end of July, but none arrived.

Harwell warden James Duke said he has offered 300 of the center’s 833 beds to the federal agency, but he doesn’t know when to expect them to be filled.

“The thing with immigration is this facility is only an overflow facility. So basically, we can’t expect (detainees) unless (ICE) needs us for overflow beds, and there’s no way we can predict that,” he said. “Dealing with (ICE), it’s got to be on their time and on their need.”"

This is not the Jack Harwell lock-up's first foray into immigrant detention contracts.  As we reported back in 2011, then-operator Community Education Centers had immigration detainees removed from its facility after complaints from legal service advisors and immigration rights advocates that conditions in the facility were inappropriate for immigrants in civil detention.  The facility also was deemed non-compliant by the Texas Commission on Jail Standards. 

McLennan County has struggled to pay the debt the county's Public Facility Corporation floated to pay for the construction of hte facility.  The facility has sat half-empty for years after county's financing agency spent $49 million to build it.  The sitting McLennan County Sheriff was on the payroll of CEC at the time the county voted to finance the construction of the facility.