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April 2017

Closing the Bartlett State Jail has potential to save millions of dollars

The city of Bartlett is preparing for possible financial difficulties if the Bartlett State Jail closes in September, reports the Temple Daily Telegram. But it may also open opportunities.

The Bartlett State Jail is one of four prisons that may be closed by September following recommendations by the Texas Senate Finance Committee, the workgroup that works on the state's budget for the next two years. The state is hoping to cut $250 million from the budget, and by closing the Bartlett jail, the state of Texas would save around $24 million. If the budget does pass, the prisoners from Bartlett will be transferred to other facilities. The Bartlett State Jail has been operated by CoreCivic (formerly CCA) since 1995, and has a history of hazing and sexual abuse.

Some city of Bartlett officials have expressed concerns that the jail closing will negatively hurt their economy. Officials said that sales tax collection will be reduced and area residents who work at the jail could be reassigned or laid off. The city would also lose over $500,000 a year in water in wastewater removal revenue that comes from the operation of the jail.

However, closing the jail could actually end up saving the city money in the long run. Due to the high population of the jail, as well as the city of Bartlett, the city's wastewater treatment plant is not in compliance with the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality. To bring Bartlett into compliance and avoid high fines would require expensive repairs and sludge clean up for the existing wastewater facility. By closing the jail, the city would reduce the demands on the wastewater facility, possibly saving the city thousands, or even millions, of dollars in necessary repairs and upgrades.

City and state officials are preparing for the possible shutdown by creating an economic development plan and looking at other possibilities or alternatives to improving the local economy.

Bartlett officials may want to speak with city of Eden officials, who are looking at ways to diversify their economy following the closing of the Eden Detention Center. They are looking into enhancing the arts in their town and finding ways to draw small businesses to the area.  

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Private prison working on permits to demolish existing parts as they look to reopen notorious facility

Willacy County Regional Detention Facility
A private prison company is working on getting permits to continue their push to reopen the Willacy County Detention Center, reports KRGV 5.

On Monday, Management and Training Corporation (MTC) went with Raymondville officials to inspect the facility as they work to reopen the Willacy County Detention Center. Following the inspection, MTC officials said they plan to demolish ten prison tents that were damaged in a 2015 prisoner uprising. Eleazar Garcia, Raymondville's city manager, said MTC required permits to tear down the structures. Garcia said it would take about a day to process the permits.

Raymondville officials hope that the reopening of the facility will lead to a rebuilding of their economy. The facility could bring between 150 and 200 jobs to Raymondville.

Management and Training Corporation, a Utah-based private prison company, has been in the process of reopening their facility located in Raymondville, Texas. It had to be closed in 2015 after a prisoner uprising caused by the horrible conditions at the facility, which led to several prison tents being partially destroyed. Some parts of the facility were torn down soon after the uprising in hopes of securing a new contract, which did not materialize. While insurance covered the cost for MTC to repair the facility, it was not enough for Willacy County and led to a budget crisis that is still affecting the local economy. Perhaps it is time for cities and counties to new look for new revenue streams outside of private prisons, ones that are beneficial and not as risky.

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Private prisons spend big money lobbying in Texas

According to a recent report by Texans for Public Justice, private prison companies are willing to spend big money lobbying for new laws that benefit the prison business.

Texas has always been a prime spot for companies wishing to operate private prisons in the U.S. The two largest private prison companies, CoreCivic and the GEO Group, operate more than 40 facilities in Texas. New data from advocates show how much effort and money those companies put into lobbying Texas officials in hopes of opening new facilities throughout Texas — or protecting their interests in current family detention facilities.

According to the report, private prison companies in 2017 paid 10 lobbyists up to $480,000 dollars to lobby Texas state lawmakers. The GEO Group spent the most, paying up to $320,000 on lobbying. This is evident this legislative session, as one Texas lawmaker admitted that a GEO lobbyist wrote a bill that would give the state of Texas power to license family detention facilities as child care facilities, increasing the amount of time women and children could be detained in these prison camps.

Paying lobbyists isn't all that private prison companies have to been up to either. Between 2013 and 2016, these companies gave more than $225,000 to Texas lawmakers via political action committees. The largest amount of money was given to Gov. Greg Abbott, Lieutenant Gov. Patrick, and to various Republican leadership committees and caucuses.

Between bidding for new contracts with different communities to operate detention centers or their lobbying Texas politicians, private prison companies’ influence in Texas is evident. GEO Group has been awarded a contract to build and operate a new facility in Texas, and private prison stocks have been on the rise. The report by Texans for Public Justice exposes who has the real power at the Texas Capitol, and it seems to be whoever can pay the largest amount.

Family detention centers struggle to get licensed

The GEO Group, a private prison company who operates a family detention center in Texas, is struggling to get their center licensed, reports the Associated Press.

As reported earlier, state lawmakers in Texas have proposed a bill that would license two family detention centers near San Antonio. The licensing was made necessary after a federal judge ruled that children held longer that 20 days must be housed in "non-secure" facilities with child care licenses. Because of this, the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services issued an emergency licensing to the two facilities so they would not close. This licensing was then challenged by immigrant families and allies, with a Austin judge ruling that the facilities could not be licensed, giving hope that this facilities would close down.

Now legislators are considering easing requirements for child care facilities so the two family detention facilities could be licensed. However, opponents say the bill would license the centers without improving conditions. Attorneys have warned that it could invite a costly lawsuit. A state representative who introduced the measure acknowledged that the proposed legislation came directly from GEO Group, the nation's second-largest private prison company, which operates Karnes.

"I've known the lady who's their lobbyist for a long time ...That's where the legislation came from," said state Rep. John Raney, a Republican from the rural town of Bryan. "We don't make things up. People bring things to us and ask us to help."

According to a report by Texans for Public Justice, GEO Group's political action committee has spent up to $320,000 lobbying the Texas Legislature since January and contributed $193,000 to Texas lawmakers' campaigns since 2013. Despite GEO Group's heavy lobbying, neither the Senate or House version of the licensing bill are likely to pass.

Immigrant women in detention with their children say the lockdown buildings could never qualify as child care providers. That includes Suyapa, a 35-year-old Honduran mother who was detained with her three children and grandson in February in Karnes.

"A jail isn't a school," said Suyapa, who spoke on the condition that her last name not be used since her asylum case is pending. "My son got sick and turned yellow, and they said the doctor didn't have time to see my child."

Willacy County prison to be inspected next week

The owners of the Willacy County Detention Center are taking a step forward in reopening the facility after more than two years with an upcoming inspection, reports KRGV 5.

The Willacy County Detention Center is known by critics as "Ritmo" — short for Raymondville's Guantánamo prison. It is owned by Management and Training Corporation (MTC), a Utah-based private prison company. Though it has been closed for more than two years, Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) had expressed interest in reopening the facility following presidential orders increasing border security and immigration enforcement. Officials from MTC and the city of Raymondville, where the facility is located, will inspect the facility Monday at 10 a.m.

Raymondville Mayor Gilbert Gonzales said MTC officials were eager to reopen the facility. “They’re going to start working on the facility itself right now to start repairing the damage, and also to make sure they’re up to specs. We’ll have our code enforcement officer here,” he said.

The reason for the inspection and subsequent repairs is due to a prisoner uprising in 2015. The uprising began when prisoners did not eat breakfast to protest the inadequate medical care they were receiving at the facility. The fires that occurred during the incident destroyed a large portion of the facility, which led MTC to tear down what was left in hopes of gaining a new contract. A new contract for the facility has not been signed yet, due to the prisoner uprising and the facility having a history of guards being charged with bribery, drug smuggling, and deaths of prisoners.

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GEO Group awarded contract for new immigrant detention center in Texas

The GEO Group released a press release today stating that the company had been awarded a contract for a new 1,000 bed detention center in Conroe, Texas.

The GEO Group, the second-largest private prison company in the U.S., has been awarded the contract by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). The facility is expected to cost over $100 million. GEO will design, finance, construct, and operate the facility for ICE. Including renewal options, the contract between ICE and GEO is a ten-year contract, and is expected to generate $44 million in annual revenue for the company. GEO is planning on having the facility completed by late 2018.

The GEO Group has been contracting with ICE since the 1980s.  GEO’s facilities are used to detain both undocumented immigrants and federal prisoners. Their facilities have a troubling history of issues, including sexual abuse of youths, prisoner suicide attempts, and prisoners escaping.  There have also been multiple cases of employees of GEO being charged with smuggling contraband into the facilities.  

GEO Group closes purchase of Community Education Centers

The GEO Group, a private prison company, has finalized the purchase of Community Education Centers, reports Seeking Alpha.

As reported earlier, GEO Group spent $360 million in an all-cash transaction to purchase Community Education Centers (CEC), another for-profit prison company that owns or manages over 12,000 beds in jails and detention centers. CEC operated 8 different facilities in Texas, where there have been wrongful deaths, contraband in jails, and breakouts from their facilities.

 

GEO Group, one of the largest private prison companies in the United States, did not purchase CEC to revamp or improve the facilities however. Facilities operated by GEO Group have their own history of mistreatment, including sexual assault, prisoner suicide attempts, and smuggling drugs into the facilities. GEO Group is expecting a revenue boost of $250 million.

This isn't the first time that GEO has bought out a competitor. In 2010, they bought Houston-based Cornell Companies for $374 million. Then in 2015, GEO purchased a smaller private prison company, LCS Corrections, for another $350 million. These purchases, along with the recent purchase of CEC, give GEO a huge hold on prisons in Texas.

Eden mayor and city officials begin planning for detention center closure

The mayor of Eden and city officials are in the planning phase as they prepare for the closing for the Eden Detention Center, reports the Concho Valley News.

The Eden Detention Center is operated by CoreCivic (formerly known as Corrections Corporation of America), one of the largest for-profit prison corporations in the United States. The contract to operate the facility will expire on April 30. CoreCivic has already notified its employees with a 60-day layoff notice. The facility employs people from San Angelo, Brady, Menard, and Ballinger, amongst others.

As well as employing people from the surrounding towns, the detention center is responsible for around 40 percent of the revenue generated each month by the city's water fund. That is equal to $40,000 a month, and city officials say losing that revenue would financially cripple Eden. San Angelo city council members recently passed a resolution in support of keeping the detention center open, with officials in Brady wanting to do the same.

The Eden Detention Center is one of many facilities owned and operated by CoreCivic in Texas, and has a history of prisoner uprisings, protests, and was the focus of a damaging report by the ACLU. While it is unfortunate that many people will be financially hurt by the detention center closing, it highlights the need to focus on true community development, not centering a community around jailing individuals. Private prison companies are focused on their income, not the communities they operate in. So when the money is no longer there, neither are they.

Lives lost in ICE custody

At least six people have died while in the custody of Immigration and Customs Enforcement since October 2016, reports Fusion.

During Fiscal Year 2017, which started on October 1, 2016 and lasts until the end of September 2017, Immigrations and Customs Enforcement (ICE) reported the deaths of six individuals in their custody. Two of those individuals were held in Texas detention centers until their untimely deaths.

Olubunmi Toyin Joshua, from the United Kingdom, had been detained in the Rolling Plains Detention Center in Haskell, Texas. She had been detained in the detention center for more than eight months before her death. ICE did not disclose a cause of death. The Rolling Plains Detention Center is operated by the for-profit, private prison company Emerald Company.

Wenceslau Esmerio Campos was a Brazilian national who had been detained at the South Texas Detention Complex outside of San Antonio. Wenceslau was taken to the Frio County hospital after complaining of chest pains to prison officials. He was then taken to Methodist Hospital of San Antonio, where he died. His preliminary cause of death was listed as cardiac arrest. The South Texas Detention Center is operated by the GEO Group, one of the largest for-profit prison companies in the U.S.

According to Fusion, there were 12 in-custody deaths reported during Fiscal Year 2016; in Fiscal Year 2015, seven people died in ICE custody.

Each death in custody highlights the terrible nature of private prisons, and shows the lack of care the facilities show their prisoners. We must remember each person lost to the prison system, and work to make the prison and detention systems things of the past.

 

GEO Group buys two facilities in Texas

The GEO Group has bought two more correctional centers in Texas, reports the News-Review

Officials in Maverick and Jones counties confirmed that their closed detention centers have been bought by the for-profit company GEO Group, which runs the most immigrant detention centers in Texas. GEO did at one time operate the facility in Maverick County, but in 2013 there was a disagreement over the contract and how profits were divided up between the company and the county. This led to GEO Group pulling out of the contract, with the county attempting to operate the facility and repay the bonds. They were unsuccessful and the county eventually had to foreclose on the facility. 

GEO Group has steadily worked since 2010 to expand its' influence in Texas by purchasing smaller private prison companies such as Cornell (2010), LCS Corrections (2015), and Community Education Centers (2017). The for-profit company has also recently been awarded a contract to construct a new 1,000 bed detention facility in Texas which is expected to generate $44 million in annual revenue for the company.

The influence isn't a positive one, however, as GEO facilities have a history of wrongful deaths, sexual assault, and locking up children who have cancer.   

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