Immigrant rights advocates and conservative U.S. congressmen alike were shocked and concerned about the speed with which the Corrections Corporation of America (CCA) won and began to implement the contract for the South Texas Family Residential Center in Dilley, TX.
The center, created in an existing "man camp" for oil field workers, is set to hold 2,400 people and is rumored to be opening in the early weeks of December. Plans for the facility were announced in September.
The unusual contract involves a lease agreement between real estate group Koontz McCombs, Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), CCA, and the town of Eloy, AZ, which is nearly 1,000 miles away.
As a result of the contract being "passed through" Eloy — which already contracts with CCA — the competitive bidding process, environmental impact report, and other safeguard measures were completely bypassed in the interest of opening the detention camp as expediently as possible. This deal streams revenue to Eloy, but leaves them free from any of the liability that comes with running a private detention facility.
The contract has been the subject of protests at the University of Texas, where the business school is named for one of the partners in the deal — Red McCombs.
Red McCombs, a well known alumnus of the University of Texas, is half of the partnership that makes up Koontz McCombs — the real estate group contracting the land with the Corrections Corporation of America (CCA) for the new family detention camp in Dilley, TX.
The ominously named South Texas Family Detention Center will be able to hold 2,400 people, making it the largest immigrant detention center in the country and putting it on par with the internment camps built for Japanese families during World War II.
On Monday, November 17th, students, alumni, and other advocates gathered at UT's McCombs School of Business (named after McCombs in recognition of his financial support of the school) to petition Thomas Gilligan, dean of the school, to urge McCombs to reconsider the deal with CCA.
According to some sources, Dean Gilligan agrees that the practice of detaining families is unjust. It's up to McCombs to determine the next move.
The GEO Group's stock prices hit a new 52-week high this week, reaching $38.69 a share. At a stockholder meeting in August, the company promised increased revenue — a projection of $26 million this year — resulting from the return of family detention to the Karnes County Civil Detention Center in Texas that same month.
The Corrections Corporation of America is also profitting from the return of family detention, with the construction on the newest and largest immigrant detention center in the country—the South Texas Family Residential Center—beginning last month in Dilley, TX. CCA reportedly will make $298 dollars per person per day in Dilley.
Private prison corporations are counting on the expansion of immigrant family detention as an entirely new income stream. They can charge the government more than $250 per day for every individual (mother or child) housed in their facility, over $100 more than they can charge for an adult in immigrant detention.
The Liberty County Commissioners Court decided Tuesday, August 26 to hire a firm to consult on whether County Sheriff Bobby Rader should take over direct operation of the jail or leave it in the hands of a for-profit, private prison company.
The Liberty County Jail is currently operated by Community Education Centers. The consulting firm, MGT of America, Inc. is based in Austin and will be paid $64,000 to help the county decide what to do.
The issue is whether the contract with CEC is costing the county. In 2012, a study by Texas A&M researcher Lynn Greenwood for Liberty County found that de-privatization of the Liberty County Jail would help the county to manage its jail costs as it continues efforts to reduce the population in its jail.
County Auditor Harold Seay told Commissioner Mike McCarty that this year’s cost overrun for the jail’s operation will be about $800,000.
“We’ve got to do something,” Commissioner McCarty said.
For his part, Sheriff Rader explained his concern that while many claim the county can save at least $1 million by operating the jail directly, he might be blamed if that does not happen.
Still Sheriff Rader told the court, “We’re ready to take to take it. You give me the money to run it, and we’ll run it.”
One candidate in Liberty County has made ending the county's contract with CEC part of his platform. Leon Wilson listed "Stopping the waste of millions of dollars by bringing the jail back under County administration" as the first item on his platform when he announced his candidacy in the primaries in the Liberty Vindicator. Wilson won that primary and will be on the November ballot.
And like many for-profit, private prisons, the Liberty County Jail has seen it's share of scandal. For example, a CEC guard at the jail was arrested on March 15 for allegedly bringing contraband into the facility. Another CEC guard was arrested for smuggling drugs into the jail in 2013. A district court judge also accused CEC of thwarting its efforts to reduce the jail population with increased costs.
However, the commissioners may be still considering contracting with priviate prison companies. The court also voted on Tuesday to issue a request for proposals from companies that might want to run the Liberty County jail.