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May 2009

Prisoner injured at CCA's Mineral Wells facility

A prisoner was hospitalized after injuries sustained during an assault last week at the Corrections Corporation of America pre-parole transfer facility in Mineral Wells, according to the Mineral Wells Index ("Prisoner injured in disturbance at CCA facility," May 1),

A prisoner was reported transported Wednesday evening to Palo Pinto General Hospital from the Corrections Corporation of America pre-parole transfer facility with serious injuries, according to the Mineral Wells Fire Department and EMS.

According to a statement released late Thursday by CCA, “at approximately 4:45 p.m. … an inmate was found in the first-floor dayroom of housing unit 756 with injuries consistent with having been assaulted.”

According to statements by the dispatcher at the time, the caller stated that there was “blood everywhere.” Police also responded to the call but cleared within 15 minutes after speaking with a guard about the problem.

CCA's Mineral Wells facility has been home to numerous reports of disturbances, a rash of smuggling incidents, and was the subject of a three-part series here at Texas Prison Bid'ness by Nick Hudson (see part 1, part 2, and part 3).  It's also been the facility which has consistently generated heated comments from readers of this blog - both against the facility and in defense of it.  

Mineral Wells is currently debating whether to build a second private detention facility - this time an immigrant detention center proposed by Emerald Companies.  That proposal has been defeated once by local opponents, but Emerald is looking at other sites in the area.  Folks in Mineral Wells don't have far to look to see some of the potential downsides of private prisons.

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Annual turnover rate is 90% in TDCJ's private prisons

Amongst the interesting statistics in the Texas Senate Criminal Justice Committee's interim report on private prisons (PDF), was the shocking statistic that TDCJ-contracted private prisons have a 90% annual staff turnover rate.  The report also presented numbers on differences in guard pay between public and private facilities.

"The wages and benefits paid to employees of private contractors are generally lower than that paid to employees of state-operated facilities... Correctional officer salaries in the private prisons vary among facilities, with the highest peaking at slightly more than $24,000 annually."

For comparison to this figure, TDCJ Director Brad Livingston told the Austin American Statesman ("Big raises sought for prison workers," August 14) that starting pay for correctional officers in public facilities is $26,016, and the maximum salaries range from $34,624 to $42,242. This means the lowest-paid TDCJ guard's annual salary is $2,000 more than the highest-paid guard at TDCJ-contracted private prisons.

This probably contributes to the high turnover at private facilities noted in the report:           

During FY 2008 the correctional officer turnover rate at the seven private prisons was 90 percent (60 percent for the five privately-operated state jails), which in either case is higher than the 24 percent turnover rate for TDCJ correctional officers during FY 2008.

It's hard to understand how ANY organization can operate with 90% staff turnover.