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Could newly closed correctional facilities be turned into immigrant detention centers?

The Texas House and Senate both proposed to close four state correctional facilities to help lower the state budget, reports the Texas Observer.

The facilities set to be closed are Williamson County’s Bartlett State Jail, Wise County’s Bridgeport Pre-Parole Transfer Facility, Mitchell County’s Dick Ware Transfer Facility, and Terry County’s West Texas Intermediate Sanction Facility. According to the Texas Department of Criminal Justice, these four facilities cost the state $51.2 million dollars every two years. Together they hold 1,755 prisoners. The closing of these prisons is a rare positive development out of the Texas legislature (see anti-immigrant SB4, family detention centers licensing), with three of the four being operated by private prison companies CoreCivic and Management and Training Corporation (MTC).

If the recommended closures pass the legislature, the state would retain ownership of the Bartlett State Jail and the Dick Ware Transfer facility, as they were operated by MTC yet owned by the state of Texas. CoreCivic and the city of Brownfield, who own the Bridgeport Pre-Parole Transfer Facility and the West Texas Intermediate Sanction Facility respectively, would be free to sell their facilities or find new prisoners to house there.

This worries activists, who fear that the facilities could be turned into ready made immigrant detention centers.

Holly Kirby, criminal justice programs director at Grassroots Leadership, said "I think it’s important that we keep a close eye on how these facilities might be repurposed. It’s common practice for privately owned facilities to get used for other populations of prisoners, like immigrants, and it’s particularly concerning in the current political climate, with talk of expanding detention.”

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