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February 2013

New Report on Dawson State Jail: The Case for Closure

At a press conference on Monday at the Texas State Capitol, representatives from Grassroots Leadership (a sponsor of this blog), the Texas Civil Rights Project, the Texas Criminal Justice Coalition, and the Texas Inmate Families Association announced the release of a new report calling for closure of the Dawson State Jail.  Authored by Nicole Porter of the Sentencing Project (and blogger for TPB), the report recommends that the Texas Department of Criminal Justice not renew its contract with CCA for the facility in August, that state appropriators should zero out its funding, and that Texas focus on community supervision rather than incarceration.

In response to reports of atrocious conditions within the facility, momentum to close Dawson has been building for months.  Now, Senator Whitmire is telling reporters that he sees a "50/50" chance of the facility closing during this legeslative session.  Senator West, whose district includes the Dawson Jail, joined the call for closure saying that he would "be shocked if [his] collegues didn't support [him] on this issue."  (Click the link to see an interview with Sen. West and coverage from the press conference.)

Next Thursday, on the eve of International Women's Day, a candlelight vigil will take place outside of the Dawson State Jail, commemorating the womens' lives lost in the facility.  

A petition has also been launched at the Nation Inside, reading in part:

We, the undersigned individuals, encourage lawmakers to close the Dawson State Jail in Dallas, Texas. We join our voices to those of 25 state and national civil rights, faith, criminal justice reform, and labor organizations that recently called for the facility to be closed. [...]

CEC Staff Indicted on Federal Bribery Charges

Recently, officials from the Department of Justice, charged 13 Ector County Correctional Center employees with bribery.  The private jail employees are alleged to have supplied federal inmates with contraband items such as cell phones, marijuana and tobacco in return for cash.  According to a report by the Odessa American ("Federal Jail Employees Indicted," January 4):

"All 13 suspects were arrested Wednesday on bribery counts related to banned items smuggled to inmates in the federal detention facility. Investigators say the contraband included cellphones, charges, tobacco and marijuana. The cases go back to 2011."

The Ector County Correctional Center is a federal lockup facility operated by the Community Education Centers (CEC) and is housed within the Ector County Courthouse.  According to recent reports the indicted employees were fired.  Yet the prison has been plagued with previous scandals that we have noted before.

The investigation in to bribery charges demonstrates larger systemic problems that plague private prisons.  Research shows that the problems associated with adequately staffing private prisons compromise public safety.

We will keep y'all posted on the developments of this case. 


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