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March 2010

New McLennan County private jail has structural problems

The controversial new CEC jail in McLennan County isn't getting off to a very smooth start.  According to a Waco Tribune ("McLennan County to take possession of new jail pending final requirements," Feb. 24) article last week, the job done by prison construction crew Hale Mills appears to be cracking, literally:

The Jack Harwell Detention Center on State Highway 6 officially will be turned over to McLennan County this week after the jail’s builder satisfies a few final conditions. The 816-bed jail originally was to be turned over to the county the first week of January. The builder, Hale-Mills Construction Ltd., completed construction on the facility nearly two months ahead of schedule.

But the company encountered some last-minute problems as it put some final details on the facility. Last month, for example, hairline cracks began appearing in the concrete cinder blocks making up the jail’s interior walls.

The Jack Harwell facility in McLennan County has long generated controversy, and these latest problems are probably not endearing the company to local residents. Readers of Texas Prison Bid'ness will recognize the name Hale Mills as well.  The prison construction firm, involved in numerous prison development schemes including a controversial jail in Burnet County, was one of three companies allegedly involved in the Willacy County bribery scandal back in 2005. Three south Texas county commissioners plead guilty to receiving bribes, but no company officials were ever charged with a crime. 

As N-Group scandal emerges in Governor's race, have lessons been learned?

Some may say that Gov. Rick Perry is dredging up some pretty old dirt to throw at U.S. Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchinson.  But the N-Group” scandal (Jay Root, "Perry swings back hard during final campaign week," AP, February 23rd) Perry is trying to hang around her neck is actually the playbook from which other private prison development scams appear to have been run – most recently, the infamous, outrageous saga that unfolded last year in Hardin, Montana, where local officials got bilked by a development consortium from Texas that convinced them to build a prison on speculation that a contract would soon follow.  No contract ever materialized, but the developers collected their fees and moved on.

Sen. Hutchison denies any direct involvement, but the record clearly shows that her husband Ray was deeply enmeshed in a private prison development scheme that wreaked financial mayhem across six Texas counties.  “N-Group Securities” was the brainchild of Patrick and Michael Graham, two brothers from Houston.  The enterprising Graham brothers jumped into the private corrections field in the midst of the massive prison population boom in Texas.

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