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Lobbying and Influence

School Board Rejects Hutto Contract; CCA Continues to Work on Reputation

According to recent reports in the Taylor Daily Press, the Taylor Independent School Board (TISD) has rejected an agreement with the T. Don Hutto Immigrant Detention Center. The agreement would have permitted immigrant detainees to be housed in the old middle school gymnasium in the event of an emergency.

The Hutto facility is managed by the Corrections Corporation of America (CCA). Hutto officials are trying to lay the groundwork for an eventual agreement to be reached between the private prison company and school officials.

Several board members including President James “Bo” Stiles, Assistant Secretary Kathy Cotner and Anita Volek, along with Superintendent Bruce Scott and Assistant Superintendent David Krueger, were given a private tour of the facility May 1.

Volek said she was impressed with the facility, its school and the children in it.

“It puts us between a rock and a hard place, because we’re all about kids, too,” she said.

Hutto officials are making a case for why it is ok to house detainees at the school. Ironically, its the same argument for why these people should not be incarcerated at all.

[Hutto Facility Adminstrator Evenlyn] Hernandez stressed that the individuals housed in the facility are non-criminals, and that the CCA screens potential occupants with a background check before they are housed there. Those found to have a criminal history are not placed in the facility, she said.

As TISD board members become more familiar with the private prison, I fear that they will become more receptive to contracts with CCA around the Hutto facility. It is certainly something we will be monitoring as developments progress.

Private Prisons Featured on PBS's NOW Tonight

PBS's acclaimed series NOW will have a show on private prisons this evening. The show features commentary from Texas Prison Bid'ness founder Judy Greene, and focuses on a fight over a CCA prison proposal in Colorado. Here's a portion of the release from PBS:

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CivicGenics Gets 12 Hires to Comply with State Standards

McClennan County officials recently approved the hire of 12 new jailers in order to comply with staffing standards stipulated by the Texas Commission on Jail Standards (TCJS). According to reports in the Waco Tribune, the decision was reached after two hour closed door meeting with their county attorneys.

TCJS issued a notice of noncompliance to local officials in December of 2007, when the facility failed state inspection due to staffing concerns. According to reports, as of April 2008, the county had not responded. The jail is run by CivicGenics, a private prison corporation that is a subsidiary of Community Education Centers, Inc.

McLennan County pays $27.50 a day for each of the first 50 inmates housed in the CiviGenics facility on Columbus Avenue. The rate goes to $28.50 a day for 51 to 70 inmates, and $31 for each inmate from 71 to 90. After 91 inmates, the rate jumps to $41.95 a day, officials have said.

County officials authorized an additional $203,000 to hire 12 new employees to staff the jail. The facility has been out of compliance with TCJS for years as it has struggled with jail crowding issues. Rather than identify community alternatives to reduce incarceration, like rethinking law enforcement practices, the county has received variances from the state agency to meet capacity demands.

While officials, have already authorized funding they are currently exploring other options.

Opposition of CCA Executive to Federal Judgeship

A significant amount of opposition has been registered against Gustavus A. Puryear IV, general counsel since 2001 for Corrections Corporation of America (CCA). CCA is the nation's largest for-profit private prison company. As many of you know, several of the private prisons in Texas are operated by CCA. We recently posted information on CCA's latest investor phone call.

Puryear was nominated by President Bush in June of 2007 for a federal judgeship for U.S. District Court in the Middle District of Tennessee (the same jurisdiction where CCA's corporate headquarters is located).

An effort in Tennesse has developed that has worked hard to oppose the Puryear nomination. Tennesseans Against Puryear opposes the nomination for several reasons including:

  • Because as CCA's general counsel, Puryear, would hold a judgeship in the same district where CCA's corporate office is located, where numerous lawsuits against CCA are filed;
  • He has little trial experience in federal court; during his time at CCA he has worked to conceal damaging information about the company and has belittled prisoner litigation; and
  • As the top lawyer for the nation's largest private prison company is particularly ill suited to serve as a federal judge.

We find it encouraging that community groups are working the process to hold the President accountable for his nominations. Puryear's appointment could significantly impact the ability of the judicary to oversee private prison corporations and the various government agencies that contract with them. As the nomination process continues we will keep y'all posted.

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