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Bob Libal Grassroots Leadership letter to Dickens County

Grassroots Leadership
(512) 499-8111
2604 E. Cesar Chavez
Austin, TX  78702

May 16, 2008
County Judge Robert Hebert
301 Jackson St., Ste. 719
Richmond, TX 77469

Dear Judge Hebert,

I write to express my concern about the Fort Bend County Commission’s recent decision to send county inmates to the Dickens County Correctional Center, a private jail located over 500 miles away from Fort Bend County.  My organization, Grassroots Leadership, is a 28 year-old southern-based organization that opposes the use of for-profit prisons, jails, and detention centers.

The Dickens County facility itself has been the site of many disturbing reports over the past year.  Specifically, my concerns about the facility include:

1)    Moving prisoners hundreds of miles from family members is bad public policy.  Studies show that isolation of prisoners from their family members increases recidivism and undermines public safety. Children of these inmates will suffer from lack of contact while parents and spouses have additional anxiety from not being able to see their loved ones.

2)    Conditions at the Dickens County Correctional Center are historically unsafe and unsanitary.  DCCC became the subject of national scrutiny last year  after the suicide of Scot Noble Payne, an Idaho inmate held at the prison. A subsequent inquiry by the Associated Press determined that the facility was “squalid.”  The Idaho Department of Corrections health director called the facility the worst prison he’d ever seen and “beyond repair.”

3)    The current management of DCCC has had a string of management problems at other facilities.  Management of the facility has changed ownership from the GEO Group to another private prison corporation, CiviGenics.  CiviGenics has had its own record of poor jail operations in Texas.  A guard at CiviGenics’ Texarkana facility was indicted on civil rights charges in 2005 for alleged sexual activity with a female inmate. Similarly, At CiviGenics Waco unit, a guard was indicted for sexual contact with a female inmate.  And just last month, an inmate took his own life at CiviGenics-managed prison in Ector County, Texas.  It is important to note that counties can retain liability for incidents which happen at private facilities.

Sue Ann Lorig’s, a Fort Bend resident, has written a strong letter protesting the decision that is in the online version of the Fort Bend Star.  I support Sue Ann Lorig’s points and I strongly urge you to reconsider transferring prisoners to the Dickens County Correctional Center.  Please feel free to contact me if I can be of any assistance in this matter.

Best,


Bob Libal
Texas Coordinator, Grassroots Leadership

Cc: Fort Bend County Commission
Fort Bend Star