As I mentioned above, there was little movement on these measures during the 81st Session. We received word that lobbyists working for private prison companies were roaming the Capitol in an effort to undermine these very reasonable reforms. It is unfortunate that even reasonable changes to the law, such as extending open records statutes to cover private jails, generated opposition from elected officials.
Navigating the legislature is just one avenue to improving oversight and accountability at Texas private prison facilities. We will continue to monitor developments that use this process. It may take additional public education and support to balance the interests of elected officials who serve the private prison industry with those who are interested in reasonable and responsible correctional reform.
Previous posts on legislation that impacted Texas private prisons:
The Corrections Corporation of America (CCA) held it's investor's call for the first quarter of 2009 earlier this month. During the call, CCA officials emphasized a positive outlook that drove stock prices to increase by 19% following the conference call.
According to CCA, 9,300 new beds were brought online during 2008 and 2009, and the average daily compensated population increased for the quarter to 4.2% from the the previous year. CCA remains the nation's largest owner and operator of privatized correctional and detention facilities, managing 64 facilities, 44 of them CCA-owned, designed to house approximately 86,000 prisoners.
On the call, company officials informed investors of a 10,000 bed vacancy among current capacity. However, folks at CCA implied the for profit business strategy of building prisons on speculation in anticipation of demanded capacity would positively impact investment.
Specifically, CCA officials mentioned the federal stimulus package's assistance in helping states avoid budget shortfalls should help attract new demand to fill currently vacant beds.
CCA reps are projecting the potential demand may come from the 19 states -- including Texas -- the company currently does business with. According to the company's analysis those states' prison populations will grow in excess of planned capacity past 2013.
It will be interesting to see if CCA's projections bear out. We will keep following the company's contracts particularly those in Texas. Stay tuned...
Below we provide a 2009 list of registered lobbyists for the private prisons prison industry, as reported to the Texas Ethics Commission. In coming weeks, we will run profiles of these individuals to give readers a better sense of who is walking the halls of the Texas legislature in support of private prisons.
|Filer ID||Lobbyist Name||Company||Compensation|
|00050764||Aguirre, Lionel "Leo"||The GEO Group Inc.||$200,000 - $249,999.99|
|00055941||Gibson, Stephanie||The GEO Group Inc.||Less Than $10,000.00|
|00033567||Miller, William J.||The GEO Group Inc.||$25,000 - $49.999.99|
|00056112||Wittenburg, Michelle||The GEO Group Inc.||$10,000 - $24,999.99|
|00042780||Keel, Lara Laneri||Corrections Corporation of America||$25,000 - $49.999.99|
|00022836||Shanblum, Laurie||Corrections Corporation of America||$ 0.00|
|00020586||Place, Allen||Management & Training Corp.||$25,000 - $49.999.99|
|00013441||Fisher, Walter||Avalon Correctional Services Inc.||$50,000 - $99,999.99|
We previously posted that state legislators introduced companion bills to drastically alter state prison labor programs. Our pal Scott at Grits for Breakfast, provides an interesting take on this legislation which will be heard in the House Corrections Committee on Thursday morning.
If the comments on the Grits blog are any indication, tomorrow's hearing might be interesting. The details for the public hearing are:
TIME & DATE: 8:00 AM, Thursday, March 26,
And folks who can't make it to the dome, can watch the hearing online at the Texas Legislature Website. We will be sure to update y'all after the hearing takes place.