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March 2009

Senate Criminal Justice Offers Direction on Private Prison Oversight

The 81st Texas Legislature is in session under the dome in Austin.  One of the topics on the table will be private prison oversight.  We have already posted that State Rep. Harold Dutton (D-Houston) filed legislation to address one aspect of private county jail contracts earlier this year.

The state senate criminal justice committee provided direction when it released its Interim Charge recommendations last year in anticipation of the legislative session.  In the committee's interim report, several recommendations are offered for private prison oversight. Those suggestions include:

  • The Commission on Jail Standards review current standards for private vendors housing out-of-state inmates and audit all facilities providing this service.
  • Any vendors not meeting the requirements should be given a specified period of time to address any problems.  If concerns are not addressed, contracts should be canceled and inmates should be moved.
  • All vendors should be required to disclose any information supporting terminated contracts as a result of the vendor not fulfilling their obligations in a Requst for Proposal.  The vendor must also disclose how they have addressed past concerns.

In addition, State Senator Juan "Chuy" Hinojosa (D-El Paso) asked the Texas Department of Criminal Justice for specific information regarding private prisons.  Hinojosa requested:

HB 1714 Would End County Contracts with Private Prisons

Rep. Harold Dutton (D-Houston), filed HB 1714 that prohibits counties from contracting with private prisons. Dutton's bill comes in the wake of a number of deaths and scandals that plagued county managed private facilities in recent years. Several suicides and in-custody deaths among prisoners from Idaho in a GEO managed facility led to the cancellation of local contracts.

We have published posts regurlarly on this blog regarding the problems that face privately run county jails that contract with other states. Bob wrote earlier this year that early termination for private jail contracts resulted in counties holding debt they could no longer handle. Not good policy in midst of a deep recession.

Dutton's legislation is certainly timely. We will keep you posted as the bill advances through the 81st legislature.

CCA 2008 4th Quarter Call

The Corrections Corporation of America  (CCA) held its 2008 fourth quarter investor conference call last month.  The private prison profitteers at CCA mentioned the company is suffering from the economic downtown that is facing other sectors.  The most clear reason given was the budget discussions happening at the state level and the potential impact on CCA contracts. 

Corporate officials were very careful not to disclose too much information in the call that could impact CCA's bottom line.  Specifically, they refused to mention which states the company was in current discussions with regarding contracted capacity.  We know that Texas is in the middle of it's legislative session right now.  There is no doubt that CCA lobbyists are walking the halls of the state capitol in an attempt to protect it's current contracted capacity and influence any opportunity to expand private capacity at the state or local level. 

On the investor call, CCA mentioned that the average compensated prison bed occupancy grew to nearly 83,000 beds in 2008 from 75,000 in 2007.  Additionally, there was a 5.5% increase in average daily population of CCA capacity during 2008. 

In materials relating to the call, CCA lists the facility it owns and operates in Texas.  Those facilities are listed below.

Texas Facility Portfolio (as of December 31, 2008)

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