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Private prison operator CEC will continue to manage scandal-plagued Liberty County Jail

Last month, private prison corporation Community Education Centers won a new contract to operate the troubled Liberty County Jail, according to a press release from the New Jersey-based company earlier this month.  The contract has a three year term and a two year option, according to the company, and followed a report by jail consultants MGT America.  CEC has operated the facility since 2006, though the company's tenure at the facility has anything but smooth.  

This past April, two prisoners were found dead at the 285-bed lock-up in a single week prompting a review by the Texas Commission on Jail Standards that found what the Houston Chronicle described as "a slew of deficiencies at the facility, including infrequent inmate observations, incomplete suicide prevention screening and improper distribution of medication."  

The deaths followed a spate of other problems at the facility including a long string of contraband smuggling and at least two allegations of sexual abuse in the facility. The facility has repeatedly run into problems with the Jail Commission, the agency charged with overseeing basic standards at county jails.  In 2011, a Jail Commission failed the facility for a series of infractions including that the warden of the facility was not properly licensed.  

Beyond operational problems, the facility has made headlines as an example of for-profit incarceration incentivizing high rates of incarceration.  Back in 2012, Liberty County made our "big stories of the year" list after 253rd District Court Judge Chap B. Cain initiated a plan to reduce the number of non-violent individuals housed in the jail.  The plan was successful, but the contract for the jail stipulated at the time that if the jail population dipped below 200, the cost per inmate went up, reducing the financial incentive to keep jail populations low.  It's unclear if the new contract with CEC retains this counter-incentive to sound criminal justice policy or not.