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Lobbying and Influence

Proposed Raymondville Family Detention Center Being Pushed by Prison Developer

While we've reported that one of the three new family detention centers proposed by Immigration and Customs Enforcement may end up in Raymondville, I hadn't seen this Valley Morning Story until recently. The story provides more details on the proposed Raymondville lock-up,

City officials are considering a proposal to build a 200-bed, $30 million detention center to hold illegal immigrant families.

Raymondville city commissioners sent a letter to U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials to support a plan to build the detention center, City Manager Eleazar Garcia said Wednesday. "We haven't committed ourselves to anything yet, except we're interested and would like to know more about it," Garcia said.

Since the mid-1990s, Willacy County has built prisons and a detention center in the Raymondville industrial park. Already there are a 1,000-bed state prison, a 500-bed county prison, a 96-bed county jail and a 3,000-bed illegal immigrant detention center, the largest in the United States.

SAFP Prisons to be Discussed at Fall Legislative Hearing

The Austin Chronicle discusses the origins of Texas' Substance Abuse Felony Punishment Facilities (SAFPF) in it's latest edition. The article provides an interesting overview of Texas' treatment prisons which is particularly important given the current focus on prison alternatives. Despite, the current dialogue around diversion, Texas still expanded prison capacity in recent years through SAFPF and other in prison treatment programs.

According to the Texas Department of Criminal Justice (TDCJ), SAFPF are an intensive six-month therapeutic community program (nine-month program for offenders with special needs) for offenders who are sentenced by a judge as a condition of community supervision or as a modification of parole/community supervision.

The Senate Criminal Justice committee will meet this fall to discuss the legislative appropriations to in prison treatment programs administered in SAFPF lock ups. During 2007 the Legislature appropriated $234 million to TDCJ as a part of a prison expansion initiative. The state proposes to increase SAFPF funding by $63.1 million during 2008-09. Vendors like the Chicago based Gateway Foundation manage lucrative contracts with TDCJ to run SAFPF programs.

Currently, TDCJ contracts with Gateway to run the Ellen Halbert Unit in Burnet County. As with many private prison contracts there are reports of mismanagement and abuse at the Halbert Unit. As a result the Senate Criminal Justice committee will to discuss the lockups and the monies allocated to them. The Chronicle states that SAFPF prisoners collected testimonies to disclose their experiences in the correctional facilities. According to the testimonies of former prisoners:

Texas Increases Private Prison Population

The Bureau of Justice Statistics (BJS) released its latest numbers in June regarding the national rate of incarceration and provided state level data as well. According to the BJS the total number of prisoners in custody during 2007 numbered 2.3 million.

As usual, Texas ranks high among the number of prisoners incarceated in state custody. Prisoners in Texas comprised nearly 173,000 of the total number of people in federal and state custody. Additionally, 18,720 of Texas prisoners were detained in private facilities (see chart below); a total 0f 10.8% of prisoners in the state. During 2006, Texas imprisoned about 18,220 prisoners in private facilities for percen-change of plus 2.74% in a single year.

Last year, lawmakers passed reforms meant to reduce the state's reliance on incarceration. Those policies have been lauded by the recent Pew Report and other states as a model. Time will tell if Texas is able to minimize it's overal prison population, and the number of people in private lockups as well.

Largest 20 State Private Prison Populations 2007

State Number of Private Prisoners
% of all State Prisoners

New Mexico

Clarksville City Council Considers Private Prison

Clarksville City Council, in Red River County, is considering a private prison facility. According to recent reports in The Paris News city officials are competing for Emerald Correctional Management to build the facility in their backyard.

Clarksville City Council gave its approval to the submission at a May 20 meeting. If approved, the facility will be under private contract for 10 years. After bond retirement, the title reverts to the city.

From reports, it seems that Emerald will target its efforts to federal agencies to imprison undocumented immigrants and be the latest site for expanding national detention capacity.

The facility would house 2,500 [undocumented immigrants] and would be considered a medium/minimum security facility.

Officials mistakenly think that building this prison in their backyard would contribute to economic development and increase jobs in the area.

Folks in Clarksville need to learn from the research that debunks that myth. For example the research published by blog contributor Bob Libal and his colleagues at Grassroots Leadership. They developed the report Considering a Private Jail, Prison, or Detention Center as a resource for public officials considering these decisions. The report debunks the myth that prisons contribute to economic growth.

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