UPDATE, July 28, 11:50am: Former Texas Prison Bid'ness blogger and current Texas Tech law student Andrew Strong attended today's auction and the facility was sold apparently for $6 million to an unknown, online bidder. More info as we get it.
The troubled Bill Clayton Detention Center goes on the auction block today at 11am central time.
I just wrote a piece over at Grassroots Leadership's new organizational blog. As we've reported before Littlefield has been paying back loans it floated to build the prison facility well before its closure in 2008. That year, the state of Idaho pulled its prisoners from the facility, then operated by GEO Group, after the suicide of Randall McCullough, who, according to news reports, had spent more than a year in solitary confinement. GEO was later hit with a massive lawsuit over in the McCullough case.
Since the facility's closure, Littlefield has had its bond ratings dropped and turned to two different private prison companies in an effort to fill the prison beds. One has to wonder why, given this history, a different owner would be more successful in turning this "turn-key detention center" into a financial success.
I'll also be attempting to live tweet the auction (using @Grassroots_News) if I can get access to the auction online (still working on it). We'll provide you details as they come.
A prison in Jones County built by Community Education Centers for $35 million in local revenue bonds sits empty according to a new story at KTXS ("New Detention Center in Jones County Awaits Inmates," July 15).
County officials have said that they hope to fill the prison with state prisoners even though the state state has adopted various policy reforms (PDF) that have lessened the demand for state prison capacity. The story is a little murky here -- we will do some digging to see if we can follow the money. From this report ("Jones County officials await word from the state on detention facility funding," Abilene Reporter-News, May 23), it appears that even though policies were adopted to lessen the need for prison space, state authorities were assuming the need for expansion:
"The state approved a contract for the prison to be built in Jones County in 2008. Revenue bonds were approved by the county to pay for construction, which began in May 2009."
In recent years, the Texas prison population has declined and the state plans to close a public prison next month. Jones County officials are looking for contracts to fill their $35 million prison. It seems that the Governor's office and county officials have phoned folks in California in the hopes of helping that state alleviate prison overcrowding due to a recent Supreme Court order. But new polling suggests that California voters support easing penalties as a way to address the state's incarceration problem instead of expanding capacity.
We'll look into this a bit more and update y'all when we get more of the story.
I was recently alerted to the ALEC Exposed Wiki which is an amazing resource for all things about the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) including materials that were restricted to non members for years. We have recently reported on ALEC's connections in Texas.
Folks have been suspecting for a long time now that ALEC's influence has a correlation to expanding prison privatization. Part of the organization's mission is to:
advance the Jeffersonian principles of free markets, limited government, federalism, and individual liberty, through a nonpartisan public-private partnership of America's state legislators, members of the private sector, the federal government, and general public.
The wiki makes model legislation available and provides a forum for it's audience to review and post comments. Legislation includes this model bill relating (PDF) to authorizing state prison agencies to contract out incarceration and other related services. Take a look and join the discussion. This is an exciting development in the effort to make the lawmaking process more transparent as it relates to prison privatization.
On Friday, I joined a protest by Texans United for Families against Wells Fargo's investment in private prison corporation GEO Group. The protests, part of a larger private prison divestment campaign initiated by immigrant and worker rights organization Enlace, took place in more than 13 cities around the country including in Tennessee, Florida, Colorado, and other locations.
Wells Fargo is one of the largest institutional investors in GEO Group, holding more than 3.5 million shares or $92 million dollars in the private prison corporation. Protestors are particularly critical of GEO Group's lobbying and role in building new immigrant detention centers, including the a new prison in Karnes County, Texas.
According to the protesters press release:
"'The private prison industry relies on taxpayers for its income and then lobbies for policies that benefit its bottom line,' said Dave Kalloor of Texans United for Families. 'Harsh immigrant incarceration policies and new detention centers, like one Karnes County, Texas, are some of the most lucrative policies for GEO and other private prison corporations.' ...
Wells Fargo’s support of the GEO Group is even more troubling in light of GEO’s history in Texas. GEO’s facilities include prisons, immigration detention centers, and juvenile detention centers where people have suffered from inadequate medical care and unsafe and unsanitary conditions. Deaths, riots, and hunger strikes at GEO’s facilities are indicative of GEO’s culture of cruelty and underscore the need to end construction of new GEO facilities.
GEO is currently constructing a new immigration detention center in Karnes County, Texas. 'GEO and Wells Fargo profit from the detention and deportation system that separates families and tears our communities apart. Wells Fargo claims to support community-building and value ethics, yet they are investing in an industry with unethical practices that harm immigrants, people of color, and youth,' said Rocío Villalobos of Texans United for Families."
Check out Austin Indymedia's post for audio and additional coverage of the protest. We'll keep you posted on developments from the private prison divestment campaign.