As we say goodbye to 2013, Texas Prison Bid'ness is highlighting the top private prison stories of the year, based on stories covered by our blog. Our number one story of the year is the state's closure of two notorious Corrections Corporation of America prisons - the Dawson State Jail and the Mineral Wells Pre-Parole Transfer Facility.
The story mirrors our biggest story of 2012, the growing momentum to close the Dawson State Jail. State lawmakers had pushed for the closure of Dawson and the Mineral Wells Pre-Parole Transfer Facility, another CCA-contract prison, arguing that the state had extra bed capacity thanks to a declining prison population.
As we say goodbye to 2013, Texas Prison Bid'ness is highlighting the top private prison stories of the year. Our second biggest story of 2013 was the City of McAllen's rejection of a GEO Group prison for immigrants.
This summer, a battle broke out in McAllen, Texas over the possibility of the city partnering with private prison corporation GEO Group to open a 1,000 bed facility to detain individuals charged with federal crimes for the U.S. Marshals Service. (Full disclosure: my organization, Grassroots Leadership, was involved in the effort to stop the deal). Under the proposal, the city would have expanded its existing contract with the U.S. Marshals service, and the private company would in turn pay McAllen a portion of the government's daily per-inmate payment.
As we say goodbye to 2013, Texas Prison Bid'ness is highlighting the top private prison stories of the year. Our third biggest story of 2013 was the growing campaign to close the privately-operated Polk County Detention Center in Livingston, Texas.
About 90 miles northeast of Houston is what many advocates call one of the worst immigration detention centers in the U.S. The Polk County Detention Center in Livingston, Texas is notorious for its substandard conditions, poor quality food and discriminatation against immigrant detainees. The facility is operated by private prison corporation Community Education Centers.
Protest at Polk
In fact, the Polk Detention Center has been attracting the attention of human rights activists in Texas for some time. In November of 2012, Grassroots Leadership and Texans United for Families released a report on the conditions at Polk and recommended it's immediate closure.
As we say goodbye to 2013, Texas Prison Bid'ness is highlighting the top private prison stories of the year. Our fourth biggest story of 2013 was the rejection of jail privatization from two North Texas counties this summer.
Ellis County Sheriff Johnny Brown
This year, two conservative North Texas counties — Ellis County and Kaufman County — entertained and ultimately rejected jail privatization proposals after opposition from law enforcement professionals, public officials, and community members.
We first heard that Ellis County was considering privatization of the Wayne McCollum Detention Center back in March when the county received responses to an RFP from LaSalle/Southwestern Correctional and Community Education Centers. Neither bid scored well — CEC's receiving 65 points out of 100 to LaSalle's 53.
As we say goodbye to 2013, Texas Prison Bid'ness is highlighting the top private prison stories of the year, based on stories covered on our blog. Our number five story of the year is continued problems at the Jack Harwell Detention Center, McLennan County's speculatively built private jail.
Back in May, we reported that McLennan County Commissioners had voted to end the county's contract with private prison corporation Community Education Centers to run the Jack Harwell Detention Center, deciding instead to team up with LaSalle Corrections.
The detention center had been a strain on McLennan County since before construction began in 2008. The county was hoping to pay off $49 million in bonds floated by its Public Facilities Corporation and generate revenue by holding federal prisoners but never saw the numbers they anticipated.
"In three separate letters, Montgomery County Attorney J D Lambright has demanded the repayment of almost $13 million he says are the financial damages to the county due to a “breach of fiduciary duty” relating to the construction of two county facilities.
After seeing mixed signals from the Limestone County Detention Center operator back in July, Management and Training Corporation (MTC) has officially backed out of their contract with the county.
In response, county officials have opted to allow Mike Sutton to step in and run the prison on an interim basis. Sutton served as the warden and administrator of Limestone County Detention Center for 13 years before CEC lost their contract in March 2013.
We reported back in May 2013 that Sutton actually put in a bid to run the prison under a company named Detention Management Services after CEC's exit, but he was beat out by MTC.
Now with MTC's departure, Sutton will run the prison afterall, at least for now.
On December 4, Grassroots Leadership and Texans United for Families released a report lsiting the reasons why the Polk County Detention Center in Livingston, Texas still needs to be closed. The report was released at the Federal Building in downtown Austin.
During our organizations' tour of Polk in September, we were able to interview 24 men who are detained at Polk by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). Based on the men's responses, we were able to compose a list of the top ten reasons why Polk should be closed, including lack of access to basic medical care, legal services and recreation. A copy of our report can be viewed here.
More updates will follow in the near future about our campaign to close Polk. Please stay tuned for how you can support us as we stand in solidarity with our incarcerated community members.