Money/Financial Interests

Community Opposes Expansion of Half Way House

The Beaumont Enterprise recently reported opposition to the expansion of the Gulf Street halfway house, a private facility owned by Cornell Cos, a Houston-based private prison corporation. The change would have added 50-beds to the 180-bed Beaumont Transitional Treatment Center.

It appears that one of the primary reasons for opposition was the belief that expansion of the center would undermine the land value in the area.

Robert Reyna, Beaumont Housing Authority director, was opposed to the expansion because of the potentially detrimental impact on a $20 million Hope IV housing development that would bring 170 apartments and 83 single-family homes to the former South Texas State Fairgrounds.

Company represenatives stated they withdrew the propsal for expansion after hearing from residents.

The New Yorker features Hutto

The New Yorker magazine features the T. Don Hutton facility its latest edition. The article entitled "The Lost Children," by Margaret Talbot offers a comprehensive analysis of the policy issues that led to family detention at Hutto. The article is available in the March 3rd edition of the magazine and should be available online over the next few weeks.

The article charts the flawed policy changes undertaken by the Department of Homeland Security. Specifically, Talbot mentions that immigrant detention increased by 79% in 2006 from the previous year due to the end of "catch-and-release" in 2005.

Yet, the article also mentions that the government recommended several alternatives to incarceration for undocumented immigrants and their children including the Intensive Supervision Appearance Program which allows people waiting for their cases to be decided to be released to the community provided they are tracked by:

  • electronic monitoring bracelets;
  • curefews; and
  • regular contact with a caseworker.

The government established several pilot programs and determined the community supervision of undocumented immigrants is effective; 90% of the people enrolled in these programs show up for their court dates.

The article also features a comments by our Judy Greene who emphasizes that clear problems with private prison facilities include their ability to circumvent the release of information regarding their facilties such as use of force against prisoners.

The article provides a wealth of information regarding Hutto and the policy changes that created it. We invite you to obtain the last copy of the New Yorker to add to your library. We will update the post with the link when it becomes available.

Sheriff gets $12K a year from Civigenics

Due to the election cycle, we stand to learn a great deal about public officials and their relationships to private prison companies. A prime example are the recent reports found in the Waco Tribune that disclose private prison corporation CiviGenics paid $12,000 a year to McLennan County Sheriff Larry Lynch.

... Lynch’s salary being boosted by an extra $12,000 a year and paid by CiviGenics, a private detention company that has been leasing the downtown county jail since before Lynch became sheriff.

In the article, Lynch states that the CiviGenics payments go back ten years before he became Sheriff, netting Lynch and his predecessor a total of $120,000. According to the Sheriff, the stipend is a feature of the contract authorized by the McClennan County Commissioners Court.

This story is the latest example of how private prison contractors acquire influence with public officials at all levels of government using money and other strategies. According to the article, the county has sent 100 prisoners to CiviGenics for the past six months despite 250 beds being available downtown in recent weeks.

We will continue to post information regarding the relationship of public officials to private prison companies. It is more than likely that these details will continue to surface over the next few months.

TYC Conservator Leaves from Private Prison Post

The Houston Chronicle recently reported that Texas Youth Commission (TYC) conservator, Richard Nedelkoff, resigned from Florida-based Eckered Youth Alternatives -- a private, youth correctional agency. Nedelkoff's resignation came after being questioned by lawmakers during a legislative hearing.

Lawmakers questioned whether his personal business relationships with national experts he's brought in to assess the agency presented a conflict of interest.

According to lawmakers, several of the national experts had relationships to private prison agencies. Despite, denial that the private prison officials consulted by Nedelkoff contributed to bad decision making, he resigned soon after being quizzed by public officials.

In a statement, ... Nedelkoff said he was resigning his position as chief operating officer with the Florida-based Eckerd Youth Alternatives Inc. "to avoid any appearance of impropriety."

This is was an interesting development in the reforms being undertaken by TYC officials. We will keep you posted regarding on any relationships between the agency and private prison contractors.

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