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February 2010

State Budget Problems may Lead to Private Prison Closure

There is one fact that may impact prison capacity over the coming years – like other states -- Texas is dealing with serious budget problems. The Governor has issued his typical mandate -- asking state agencies to find ways to reduce their budgets by five-percent.  Additionally, legislative leaders in the state House and the Senate have suggested that closing prisons is definitely on the table as they work to manage the state’s correction budget.

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Breaking News - TX Attorney General: Sheriffs cannot accept salary enhancements from private prison corporations

In a big ruling today, the Texas Attorney General's office has ruled that County Sheriffs cannot accept salary enhancements from private prison corporations. The ruling, in response to a query by Yvonne Davis, chair of the House Committee on Urban Affairs, is summarized:

Neither the Texas Constitution nor Texas statutes authorize the person holding the office of county sheriff to be paid an administrative fee by a private organization.

Read the full ruling here.  The ruling will specifically affect the financial relationships that private prison corporation CEC has with several Texas sheriffs.  As we've reported (in our #4 Private Prison Story of 2009),

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Dan Rather Reports on Reeves County Detention Center problems tonight

Dan Rather Reports will be covering GEO Group's controversial Reeves County Detention Center on tonight's broadcast.  Here's the show's description:

What's Happening Inside Reeves? - A privately run Federal prison in a small Texas town collects millions of dollars a month but few know--or can find out--what goes on behind the walls.

As regular TPB readers will remember Reeves as it was our #2 biggest private prison story of 2009.  The prison was the site of two major uprisings a year ago in protest of the lack of medical care amongst other conditions.  Nine immigrant prisoners have died in the facility in the last four years.  In the wake of the riots, the ACLU of Texas requested a Department of Justice review of the facility, and protests by family members, Grassroots Leadership (my organization), the ACLU of Texas, and the Southwest Workers Union continued into December.

72% of an LCS Facility's Guards are Untrained or Tested

LCS Corrections' facility, the Coastal Bend Detention Center (CBDC) in Robstown, Texas recently underwent and passed two surprise visits in accordance with their "at-risk" status. The facility recently released an inmate because they mistook the identity of the man, who is still at large.

The Caller-Times ("Robstown private prison passes two surprise inspections," Feb. 1) covered the story of the surprise inspection and fire drill and had this to say:

Hill Briefing on Private Prison Information Act

Last month, a briefing was held on the Private Prison Information Act (HR 2450).  The measure was introduced by Texas Congresswoman Sheila Jackson Lee.  Our own Judy Greene presented at the briefing along with Joshua Miller of AFSCME, David Shapiro of the ACLU's National Prison Project, Tom Barry of the TransBorder Project, and Alex Friedman of the Private Corrections Institute.  The briefing was hosted by Corrections USA and moderated by Eric Milman

During the briefing, presenters like Judy made the case for expanding the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) to all facilities detaining persons under federal jurisdiction.  This would include immigrant detention centers in addition to private prison facilities. 

According to Tom Barry's presentation, the problems with the current system include a lack of effective oversight.

A near-total absence of committed oversight has allowed the prison industry to flourish in the shadows.  Requests for the most basic information about the functioning of these prisons and detention centers routinely lead nowhere.