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September 2011

Bill Clayton Detention Center sale falls through

I've been covering this story over at the Grassroots Leadership blog. Last month, Williams & Williams Worldwide Real Estate Auction thought they had sold the Bill Clayton Detention Center - formerly operated by the GEO Group - for $6 million to an anonymous online buyer.  You can watch the auction, where prisoners are referred to as “product,” here.

Now, the City of Littlefield has announced that the buyer has backed out the deal.  According to a story yesterday at KCDB.com (“Littlefield Detention Center bid falls through,” September 16, 2011):

“The private buyer made the offer via telephone during the July auction.  Thirty days after the bid, the contract on the property was supposed to close.  However, the City received word that the deal had fallen through.

Welcome to new Texas Prison Bid'ness bloggers Krystal Gomez and Frank Knaack

We would like to welcome our two newest Texas Prison Bid'ness bloggers Krystal Gomez and Frank Knaack.  Both Krystal and Frank work at the ACLU of Texas and bring with them substantial knowledge in the areas of prison and detention privatization, immigrant rights, and constitional questions.   

Krystal Gomez is the Advocacy and Policy Counsel for the ACLU of Texas and staffs the Lower Rio Grande Valley office.  Krystal leads the organization's Immigrant R

ights campaign focusing on issues such as Customs and Border Patrol Abuse, conditions of confinement for non-citizens in custody, and the increasing criminalization of immigrants.  Krystal earned her J.D. from St. Mary's University School of Law where she received the 2010 Francisco Leos Award for Clinical Excellence for her work in the Immigration and Human Rights Clinic. Learn more about Krystal here.

Former Hutto supervisor pleads guilty to federal charges of molesting detained women

A former Corrections Corporation

of America supervisor at the T. Don Hutto detention center in Taylor has pled guilty to federal charges of sexually molesting detained women as they were being transported to the Austin airport.  According to the Statesman blog post (Claire Osborn, "Former worker at detention center pleads guilty to molesting women," September 7, 2011) on the story,

"A former residential supervisor at the T. Don Hutto Residential Center in Taylor pleaded guilty this week to molesting women he was transporting them from the center to the airport or bus terminal.

Donald Dunn pleaded guilty to two federal deprivation of rights charges, according to a press release from the U.S. attorney’s office.

Dunn admitted to touching illegal female immigrants “in a sexual manner” between December 2009 and May 2010, the release said. He said that he would stop the vehicle along the way, order them to get out and convince them he was conducting a legitimate search, it said.

Dunn has not been sentenced but faces up to one year in federal prison and a fine of up to $100,000 for each charge, the release said."

Is the private prison boom going bust?

Mitch Mitchell raises the issue of the Texas speculative prison boon goin

g bust in an excellent story in Saturday's Fort Worth Star Telegram ("Texas prison boom going bust," September 3).  The story starts by covering the state's closure of GEO Group's North Texas Intermediate Sanction Facility as part of broad cuts to the prison system by the Texas Department of Criminal Justice. 

"The Texas Department of Criminal Justice earlier this year announced $40 million in expense cuts. Those reductions included not renewing the contract for the North Texas ISF, department spokesman Jason Clark wrote in an e-mail.

"We have enough vacant beds available to cover our operational needs and maintain current ISF operational levels into 2012," he wrote.

The city of Fort Worth, which owns the 424-bed prison building, plans to seek a new tenant or tenants once the lease with the GEO Group, the firm that managed the prison, expires at the end of September, said city spokesman Bill Begley. The facility has been vacant since Feb. 28, when TDCJ's contract with the GEO Group expired, said Bobby Lumpkin, who works with the state's private prison contractor division.

GEO officials declined to comment."

Mother Jones explores Perry's Connection to the Private Prison Industry

Texans should not be surprised by this recent article in Mother Jones (Tim Murphy, "Flush With Prison Industry Dollars, Rick Perry Pushed Privatized Prisoner Care," September 1) that explores the governor's relationship to the private prison industry. The article delves into recent developments that happened during the last Texas legislative session, specifically moves by Governor Perry to privatize the prison health care system.

"Perry's rush to privatize prison health care is consistent with the approach he's taken throughout most of his ten years as governor: slashing public services under the guise of austerity, and then contracting those services out to the well-connected businesses that have made his rise possible. As he put it during his re-election campaign in 2010, as the private prisons industry filled his war chest with donations, "Texas is open for business." To his critics, those words have never rang truer."

According to Mother Jones several prison privatization bills failed to move forward and policy changes that would have empowered the governor's office with new authority.  One effort would have transferred the authority for the state’s prison health care board to Perry by giving him the power to appoint the majority of the committee members.