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April 2013

GEO ups the ante on facility purchases in Montgomery County

As we reported earlier this month, Montgomery County has been trying to sell off the Joe Corley Detention Center.  So far GEO Group is the only bidder, with an offer of $65 million.  Now, GEO Group has extended a $35 million offer to buy the Montgomery County Mental Health Treatment Center.  The county is looking to the sale of these facilities to pay off massive debt; it already uses the $15 million it receives annually from the state to operate MCMHTC to pay interests on its bonds.

MCMHTC is operated by GEO Care, a subsidiary of GEO Group, and is the state's first and only privately-run psychiatric hospital.  It has been plagued with problems since it opened.  As the Austin-American Statesman reported in 2012,

Mineral Wells officials lobby to keep troubled and unneeded CCA prison open

Officials in Mineral Wells are rallying to keep their town's troubl

ed Corrections Corporation of America prison open, according to a story today in the Mineral Wells Index ("Time for last-minute push to save CCA," April 24),

"With time running out before state legislators make a decision on its future, local leaders say now is the time to make the case for Corrections Corporation of America's Mineral Wells Pre-Parole Transfer Facility.

Mayor Mike Allen said there are still opportunities for city leaders and residents to speak out in favor of the facility, which provides more than 300 local jobs at full staff."

The article quotes an array of local officials clamoring to keep the facility open.  As we've reported, the Senate budget, which passed earlier this month, zeroes out funding for Mineral Wells and CCA's Dawson State Jail. The House budget would not only keep them open but would also allot $19.5 million for the purchase of the now-empty prison Jones County.  The fate of the prisons will now be determined by a conference committee, whose members were announced over the past few days.  

GEO Group Could Buy the Joe Corley Detention Center

 

Montgomery Co

unty is trying to sell off the Joe Corley Detention Facility, an immigrant detention center that's been the subject of a federal investigation and a money-drain on the county.  The only company to make a bid on the facility -- billed at $55 million -- was GEO Group, the for-profit private prison currently running it.  The Montgomery County Courrier reports that

The Joe Corley center, which opened in August 2008, was put up for sale in January when it was discovered the bonds used to finance the $44.8 million project would lose their tax-exempt status.

County officials established a minimum purchase price of $55 million to cover the jail’s outstanding debt (less than $38 million) and approximately $7 million in fines for losing that tax-exempt status.

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Future of Dawson State Jail Now up to Budget Conference Committee

Both the House and Senate of the Texas legisla

ture passed their budgets this week; now they're on their way to the conference committee to work out their differences.  One difference sticks out. While the Senate budget zeroes out funding for the privately operated Dawson State Jail and Mineral Wells Pre-Parole Transfer Facility, the House budget would not only keep them open but would also allot $19.5 million for the purchase of the now-empty prison Jones County.  

Grits for Breakfast reports:

Including the extra money to bail out Jones County, the House decision to buy a prison instead of closing two will mean an extra $116.8 million in incarceration costs over the biennium for those line items compared to the Senate budget.

Organizations Send Letter to Sec. Napolitano: Close Polk!

Protesters outside PCDCThis week, a sign-on letter was publicly delivered to Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano.  The letter, signed by 37 national and Texas-based organizations, calls for the immediate closure of the Polk County Detention Center.  This facility, run by for-profit private prison company Community Education Centers, was highlighted on a list of ten of amongst the worst in the nation by Detention Watch Network due to the inhuman conditions revealed in a November 2012 report by Grassroots Leadership and Texans United for Families.  The letter states that"

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Will Ellis County privatize its jail?

A debate that we've largely missed has been brewing in Ellis County, just south of the Dallas-Fort Worth metroplex.  The County Commission has been discussing the possibility of privatizing its local jail since at least January, according to a story by Andrew Branca in the Waxahatchie Daily Light ("County debates privatizing jail," March 12, 2013): 

"The Ellis County Commissioners Court continued its discussion of using a jail management company for the Wayne McCollum Detention Center at a workshop meeting Monday morning.

Proponents of privatizing the county jail told commissioners that using a jail management company could provide a significant savings to the county and to taxpayers.

The operation of the detention center is currently run by the detention bureau, which is a division of the Ellis County Sheriff’s Office. The detention center operates under the direct supervision philosophy, which means a detention officer is present inside the housing unit at all times to directly supervise and interact with the inmates.

The county has had exploratory meetings with LaSalle Correction and Community Education Centers to learn more about their jail management services."