You are here

January 2011

Texas 2011 budget plan includes private prison cuts at TDCJ

With the new year comes the newly proposed Texas budget plans. While seemingly no department or sector was spared from the widespread cuts, we were surprised to hear that private prison cutbacks were on the table in this tough-on-crime state:

In public safety and corrections programs, the budget report recommends shutting down a unit in Sugar Land, three Texas Youth Commission lockups and 2,000 private prison beds, a move that could close at least two additional lockups. About 1,562 prison jobs were also chopped.

Probation programs would see funding cut by 20 percent, parole supervision would be cut by almost 9 percent, and the agency's construction and maintenance funding could be cut by 83 percent, along with 90 jobs. The Victims Services Division would be eliminated. (Kate Alexander, Austin American-Statesman, "Spartan budget plan calls for broad cuts," January 19, 2011).

When browsing around the actual budget plan document itself, the Legislative Budget Board looks to other states that, in an attempt to balance the state budget, have also cut private prison contracts:

Blogging Categories: 

GEO Care's Reid halfway house having problems

A report surfaced Tuesday about another escape from the Houston halfway house operated by The GEO Group's GEO Care division. According to the report, two inmates have escaped the facility in a little over a month.

The 39-year-old sex offender fled from the Beaumont Highway facility around 6:15 Monday night, according to the Department of Public Safety. He's considered armed and dangerous. And, like Arthur William Brown, the rapist who escaped in late December, he was able to remove his electronic monitoring ankle bracelet...

[Another inmate,] Anthony Ray Ferrell escaped from Reid and allegedly shot and killed a 24-year-old good samaritan who intervened in a gas station purse-snatching. Another rapist split the Reid facility a few weeks before Ferrell slipped out. (Craig Malisow, Houston Press Blogs, "Timothy Rosales Jr.: Yet Another Escapee from a Houston Halfway House," January 25, 2011).

The article doesn't detail strain on the county and/or municipal police department that could be exacerbated by the escape of prisoners. Community resources are going to be expended to find and re-capture people who escape. The cost of using local police efforts is a hidden cost not disclosed in the private prison company's proposals. 

Blogging Categories: 

More details on "Cornell Idol" videotaping lawsuit

Earlier this month, reports surfaced over a lawsuit was filed against The GEO Group for Cornell's past actions in July 2009 for allegedly illegally videotaping female residents of a Dallas-area drug treatment facility. The facility is now operated by Phoenix House, but was operated by Cornell at the time, before the Cornell-GEO Group merger. You can read our original coverage of this story here. Since the time of our publishing the original story, more details about the extent of the allegations have surfaced.

The lawsuit alleges that the treatment facility videotaped 36 female residents without their permission and distributed DVDs of these recordings.

"The Dallas Morning News reports, for its Monday editions, that the DVDs were distributed as promotional material for Cornell Companies Inc. The lawsuit, filed last week, says residents were told that the January 2009 videotape would only be seen by judges who sent the women to the Dallas County Judicial Treatment Center in Wilmer. The lawsuit says the DVD was instead used to raise money for the program and obtain contracts for other treatment facilities." (AP, The Houston Chronicle, "Lawsuit over videotaping at Texas drug facility," January 10, 2011).

The Dallas Morning News also covered the story:

Blogging Categories: 

More problems for CEC in central Texas

Amid the recent news that CEC dropped it's contract with Falls County, the company also has concerns with the Jack Harwell Detention Center in Waco -- about a 45 minute drive from the Falls County facility -- creating more suspicion that CEC is not performing well in Texas. Since CEC is not a publicly-traded company, I was unable to find any SEC filings that could confirm these suspicions. However, the company has made significant spending cuts in Texas, suggesting a financial lagging.

According to Grits for Breakfast, the Jack Harwell facility in Waco is still failing to raise enough revenue to pay for itself:

"'McLennan County extended Tuesday an agreement to keep its downtown jail closed for another six months, but the arrangement will yield a substantially lower financial reimbursement than the original deal.' 'Lower' is relative, though. The county was supposed to receive $240,000 over the last six months and got nothing. Now they're supposed to receive $60K from the contract over the next six months, but could easily again wind up with nothing.

Blogging Categories: 

CEC drops the Falls County jail contract

Last week, Community Education Centers (CEC) decided to not renew their contract to manage the Falls County Detention Center in Marlin, TX. According to the Marlin Democrat:

"CEC has chosen not to renew the contract with Falls County and the detention center will come under the direction of Falls County, sometime in April. CEC, which has personnel in many jail facilities in many towns, has moved inmates to other facilities at a lower cost and couldn’t afford to pay the inmate cost at the Falls County facility...

...[County Judge Steven] Sharp said that at the last meeting of the Commissioner’s Court, “We are working on creating a budget so we can provide all services at the jail as well as amending the Sheriff’s budget to cover such expenses. We won’t loose [sic] all the outside inmates and will still be able to provide services for the local ones. One good thing to come out of this is that we keep all the profits and not have to pay private contractors." Jail capacity is 94 – 95 inmates.

Blogging Categories: 

Littlefield bets on Avalon and TDCJ to save Bill Clayton Detention Center

The city of Littlefield, saddled with debt for its emtpy Bill Clayton Detention Center,

has turned to a new operator and a new potential client base in an effort to save its troubled facility.  According to an article in the Lubbok Avalance-Times ("Prison Hope: Littlefield starts new year with possible new tenant for empty detention center," January 3), the facility is now contracting with Avalon Corrections:

The city of Littlefield comes into 2011 hoping it will have a new tenant renting the Bill Clayton Detention Center in a few months. The prison, which closed in January 2009 after the Idaho Department of Corrections canceled a contract with private operator GEO Group and moved its prisoners from Littlefield to Oklahoma.

Since then, the city has stretched itself financially to keep making payments on revenue bonds it issues to build the facility, which opened in 2000 as a juvenile detention center. The present ray of hope comes with Avalon Correctional Services, which has applied to TDCJ to operate an Intermediate Sanction Facility, which is a short-term facility that houses offenders who violate terms of their community supervision or paroles.

Justice Strategies releases "Children on the Outside" report

Justice Strategies, one of the sponsors of the Texas Prison Bid'ness blog, has just released a report on the impact of prisons on the children of the incarcerated.  While it doesn't directly deal with private prisons in Texas, Children on the Outside: Voicing the Pain and Human Costs of Parental Incarceration elegantly expresses one of the many collateral consequences of the U.S.'s astronomically high rates of incarceration.  Here is a description of the report:

This new Justice Strategies report provides first-hand accounts of the harm experienced by some of the 1.7 million minor children with a parent in prison, a population that has grown with the explosion of the U.S. prison population.

When they do time we also do time.  Just because we’re not in there doesn’t mean we don’t do time.  Because you’re not with us, we also do time[.]

            - Araya, a teen girl with an incarcerated father.

Former Cornell treatment center's alleged privacy violations lead to lawsuit

When the GEO Group acquired Cornell Companies for $374 million last year, it not only took over some of the company's more troubled corretional facilities, it also took on some lawsuits-in-waiting.  Or, so it would appear, based on this Robert Wilonsky's article at his Dallas Observer blog ("Thirty-Six Sue Private Operator of Dallas County Judicial Treatment Center For Privacy Invasion," January 7):
Blogging Categories: 

GEO buys electronic monitoring company BI Incorporated

Just befo

re the holiday break, the GEO Group reported the purchase of electronic monitoring company BI Incorporated for $415 million.  Formerly known as Behavioral Interventions, the Boulder, Colorado based company has major state and federal contracts. The GEO Group will incorporate the company into its growing GEO Care arm.  According to the company press release:

BI is the largest provider of comprehensive electronic monitoring services, tracking more than 60,000 offenders on behalf of approximately 900 federal, state and local correctional agencies located in all 50 states. BI applies a full continuum of technologies including radio frequency and global positioning system equipment, voice identification, and remote alcohol detection systems. BI also provides community-based re-entry services for approximately 1,700 parolees on behalf of state and local correctional agencies at 26 non-residential day reporting centers across the United States.