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March 2010

Grayson County to send inmates to Fannin County's CEC jail

After the Grayson County commissioners decided earlier this month to not construct a private jail in Sherman, they are staying true to this commitment. However, in Monday's commissioner meeting it was decided that some of their inmates might be housed in a private facility after all -- just not in Grayson County. The commissioners signed a deal with their neighbor to the East, Fannin County, to house some of their overflow inmates in order to give the commissioners more time to make a decision on how best to solve their jail problems in Sherman. The inmates would be sent to CEC's 432-bed Fannin County Detention Center in Bonham, TX.  

"We have always maintained a good working relationship with Fannin county and this has been in the works for a few months" said Judge Drue Bynum.

Bynum says [Monday's] agreement allows the county to house prisoners closer to home, instead of in McClellan or Limestone county jails and that it could also save Grayson County money.

"The contract was signed for 48 dollars a day, that includes transportation so depending on who you talk to around here that is cheaper than we can do it,” said Bynum.

Fannin County Sheriff Kenneth Moore says his jail has the space, but doesn't need the extra income to operate.

"It was in the back of our minds, but we didn't build this facility to depend on another county," said Moore.

The Jail in Fannin County is operated by a private company, Community education centers, or CEC. Sheriff Moore says he is glad to offer any help he can to Grayson County.

Tuesday: Protest of MTC in Georgetown planned

I'll be headed out tomorrow to this protest against Management and Training Corporation in Georgetown, Texas.  Activists will be calling for the closure of MTC's notorious Willacy County "Tent City" detention center in Raymondville.  "Tent City" is the largest immigrant detention center in the country, incarcerating up to 3,000 immigrants awaiting hearings, and is built out of a series of kevlar pods which has earned it the "Tent City" distinction.  Here's the announcement circulating:

Immigrant rights organizers will gather for a protest and letter-delivery calling for the closure of the "Tent City" detention center at the offices of private prison corporation Management and Training Corporation in Georgetown, Texas.  MTC operates the "Tent City" detention center in Raymondville, Texas.  The prison, largely built out of kevlar pods, is the largest immigrant detention center in the country and has been racked by a series of allegations of horrendous conditions and abuse, reports of detainees being fed rotten and inadequate food, and poor access to medical and mental health care.  Activists have called on ICE to close both "Tent City" and the Port Isabel Detention Center - two large immigrant detention centers in the Rio Grande Valley and to implement community-based alternatives to detention policies that are more humane and less costly. 

The protest will be held on Tuesday, March 30th, from 12-1pm at MTC offices (2995 Dawn Drive, Georgetown, TX).  For information on a carpool to Georgetown, contact blibal (at) or (512) 499-8111.

I'll post some pictures of the protest later in the week.  For now, read some of our previous coverage of MTC's "Tent City" detention center:

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Family sues CEC over son's death in Texarkana jail

The family of a man who died of cancer in a Community Education Centers jail has sued the company, jail officials, and the county that contracted for the jail space, according to an article in the Texarkana Gazette ("Woman says son died of cancer after being denied medical treatment," March 21):

The mother of a Texarkana man accuses Bowie County officials of causing her son’s death from cancer in 2006 by denying him medical treatment in jail.
A federal lawsuit filed by Miller County resident Carolyn Beal names Bowie County Sheriff James Prince, County Judge James Carlow and Civigenics, the private company that manages the Bowie County jail, as defendants.
“We just want our day in court,” said Beal’s attorney, Thomas Johnson of Texarkana. “Imagine if your family member was being held in jail with a life-threatening medical condition and denied treatment.

We'll keep you posted on developments in this case.

The GEO Group's 2009 Q4 Conference Tells of Speculative Building, Stock Buybacks

On February 22ndThe GEO Group announced their Q4 earnings in an investor conference call. CEO George Zoley said, "our financial performance in 2009 was the most successful in our company's history, achieving new highs in revenue and earnings results." The company reported a 2009 yearly revenue of $1.41 billion and $1.46 in earnings per share.

However, what struck me the most was the large amount of speculative building  - construction of additional beds without a contract to fill these expansions - the company has embarked on. Zoley explained:

"In Michigan, our 530-bed North Lake facility is being expanded by 1,225 beds. As you may be aware we have submitted this expanded facility in response to the Bureau of Prisons'  CAR-9 Procurement. CAR-9 was expected to result in an award of approximately 1,700 to 2,000 beds in late 2009 and early 2010... While the BOP continues to have a need for these beds, the decision on CAR-9 has been delayed primarily due to funding concerns related to the agency's future year budgets. As a result of this delay, we have decided not to assume any revenue contribution from our Michigan facility in our guidance at this time, and we continue to market this facility to other potential clients as well, and we hope to be able to activate this facility later in the year."

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New Report Covers History of GEO's Involvement in Texas

Earlier this month, Fort Worth Weekly published an article outlining the history of The GEO Group's involvement within Texas, specifically at the Reeves County Detention Center. Our own Bob Libal was referenced multiple times in the piece for his general knowledge and participation in the protest last December in front of the company's New Braunfels headquarters. The work, by Peter Gorman, is one of the more comprehensive overviews of the relationship between Texas and The GEO Group in recent time. Below are some of the more noteworthy excerpts

...GEO also has one of the world’s worst track records in inmate care: The horror stories range from rapes to suicides to murders to deaths due to inadequate medical care. The company, which declined to respond to questions for this story, once hired a convicted sex offender as a guard in a facility for juvenile females. It’s not as if something goes wrong occasionally at GEO-run prisons — something goes terribly wrong on a regular basis at one or another of their facilities. Texas alone has twice removed all its inmates from a GEO-run facility because of deplorable conditions. And yet the company is still supported by the state and federal governments, a testimony to GEO’s deep connections and deeper pockets when it comes to lobbying expenditures.

Will McLennan County Sheriff continue to receive pass-through payments from CEC?

We missed this story when it came out.  Despite an Attorney General ruling that seemingly says that Sheriffs cannot accept salary enhancements from private prison corporations, McLennan County officials don't think the ruling applies to their relationship with CEC/CiviGenics.

According to a Waco Tribune ("McLennan County officials say attorney general opinion on sheriff's salary supplement won't affect Lynch," February 19) article from last month,

McLennan County Judge Jim Lewis and McLennan County District Attorney John Segrest said the opinion will not affect operations here because the salary supplement Lynch is paid comes from the county, not CEC.

Segrest said “this opinion has no bearing whatsoever on the situation in McLennan County,” based on his knowledge of the CEC contract and from his discussions with county officials, including county auditor Steve Moore and county attorney Mike Dixon. “The private contractor does not pay the county anything,” Segrest said. “The county pays them. So clearly, there is no administrative fee paid by the private contractor who runs the jail.

The Combined Law Enforcement Association of Texas (CLEAT), the union who has battled the McLennan County Sheriff over a new private jail operated by Community Education Centers, was having none of it.

Grits on House Appropriations Examining Private Prison Contracts

State lawmakers continue to review the budget and ways to cut costs and private prison contracts are on the table.  Scott Henson at Grits for Breakfast covered a recent House Appropriations hearing where Corrections Chairman Jim McReynolds asked about private prison contract renewals.  According to Grits:

At a House Appropriations Committee meeting today, House Corrections Chairman Jim McReynolds asked TDCJ chief Brad Livingston if private prison-contracts up for renewal might increase their rates and increase costs for the state.

Livingston said that was possible, since contracts covering the 12,000 or so private beds for which TDCJ contracts are 5-7 years old. Most of these are up within the coming year and all new contracts should be negotiated by mid-2011. Livingston said that in general, for every dollar increase in per-inmate costs represented a $4.5 million cost increase to TDCJ.

How the state will deal with it's budget in 2011 may certainly impact these contracts.  We will continue to monitor the situation and post developments.

Previous coverage:

CCA Investor Call; Reports 12,000 Empty Beds

The Corrections Corporation of America held an investor conference call last month.  During the call, CCA officials discussed current capacity issues and how they were profiteering from incarcerating thousands of men, women, and children in private prison beds.  

According to CCA reports, the private prison company continues to be the largest private prison profiteer by controlling 45% of all private prison beds in the nation.  CCA reported that they have 12,000 empty beds.  Additionally, the nation’s largest private prison company stated they have lost or terminated contracts totaling more than 7,500-beds in the past 16 months and expect to lose over 3,600-beds in 2010. 

During the investor call, CCA reps mentioned they have lobbyists working in six states trying to identify new contracts.  CCA reps stated that those states are about 14,000 persons over current capacity and are not planning to build any new prisons.  While they didn’t mention Texas specifically, CCA was reported to have spent $2 million lobbying elected officials – presumably to identify the profiteering activities they outlined on the call. 

A majority of the company’s revenue is from state clients at 60%; with Texas contracts representing 5.39% of CCA business.  Federal contracts comprise about 40% of CCA’s business; specifically consisting of contracts from United States Marshall Service (USMS), Immigration Custom and Enforcement (ICE), and the Bureau of Prisons (BOP). 

Grits Explores which Private Prison Contracts could be Terminated

Our pal Scott at Grits for Breakfast, posted a list of private prison contract term obligations earlier this month.  Grits post was further exploration of a story we posted a few weeks ago regarding the Texas Department of Criminal Justice (TDC) looking to terminate private prison contracts.  Scott adds this analysis:

Grayson County Debate Finds an Answer

After a lawsuit, a review and estimate, a cancelled bond vote, two potential locations, and many other small battles, the Grayson County debate over whether or not to privatize their downtown jail or build another, separate private facility was given an answer by County Judge Drue Bynum on February 24th. In September, Bynum was one of the four who voted affirmatively to hold a bond vote to the public, a bond vote that was very ambiguous and eventually thrown out.

Last week, a press conference held by Bynum yielded this information ("Grayson County Jail bond election cancelled," KXII, 24 February, 2010):

Judge Drue Bynum says enough is enough, and at a press conference today he said a bond issue to build a public jail is now also off the table. The future of the Grayson County jail is a seemingly never ending debate.