“What happens if you privatize prisons is that you have a large industry with a vested interest in building ever-more prisons.” -- Molly Ivins, 2003

GEO Group buys two facilities in Texas

The GEO Group has bought two more correctional centers in Texas, reports the News-Review

Officials in Maverick and Jones counties confirmed that their closed detention centers have been bought by the for-profit company GEO Group, which runs the most immigrant detention centers in Texas. GEO did at one time operate the facility in Maverick County, but in 2013 there was a disagreement over the contract and how profits were divided up between the company and the county. This led to GEO Group pulling out of the contract, with the county attempting to operate the facility and repay the bonds. They were unsuccessful and the county eventually had to foreclose on the facility. 

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Walker County applies to house immigrant detainers for feds

Walker County submitted an application to U.S. immigration officials to house undocumented immigrants charged with criminal offenses, reports the Huntsville Item.

Walker County Sheriff Clint McRae and Captain Steve Fisher met with both Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) officials to discuss the possibility of detaining undocumented immigrants in the Walker County Jail. For now the county could only lease 20 beds to the federal government, because any more would cause staffing and other issues at the jail. However, the sheriff said that the county could take more immigrants detainees if a deal was struck with DHS and ICE.

If a contract is approved, the jail would have to meet federal standards to house detainees. Capt. Fisher believes that will not be an issue since the jail is only a few years old. Sheriff McRae said that if the contract is awarded, he will consider sending four deputies to Washington D.C. to be trained by ICE as part of the 287(g) program.

When the jail was being built, Walker County officials told taxpayers that they would look for ways to bring in additional revenue. Capt. Fisher said that is what they are doing.

 

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New family detention center no longer being considered

A family detention center in San Diego, Texas, is no longer being considered as local officials cite low apprehensions at the border, reports the Caller-Times.

Last July, Duval County Commissioners voted to begin contract negotiations with Serco to turn an old nursing home into a family detention center. Serco, a UK-based private prison company, tried to negotiate with Jim Wells County to use the same nursing home, which is located in both Duval and Jim Wells County. The negotiation with Jim Wells failed following backlash from the community, leading to Serco reaching out to Duval County about the proposed facility.

In an email to the Caller-Times, Duval County Judge Ricardo Carrillo, who supported the work with Serco, stated: "Serco informed me back on Feb. 28 that after several meetings with (Immigration and Customs Enforcement) officials, the news is that they (the government) are not planning to move out on the family residential center approach at this time because ‘apprehensions are at an all-time low level.’”

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Empty jails hope to cash in on immigration crackdown

Several counties in Texas with prisons that are empty or have low numbers are looking into filling their jails with immigrants who came into the U.S. without documentation, reports the Lexington Herald Leader in association with the Associated Press.
 

These counties were in debt in the 1990s and early 2000s, when they were losing employment prospects and population. To remedy this, these counties turned to building prisons with hundreds of beds that could be used to house prisoners from other counties, as well as from the state and federal level. The hope was to use these facilities to bring in jobs and money to debt-ridden counties.
 

The plan worked for a time, but eventually the Texas prison population began to decline as crime declined and there was an increase in alternative sentencing. However, these counties are now looking to the federal government to fill their bed space, banking on the immigration crackdowns following the election of Donald Trump. A proposed budget item in the Texas Senate would end state contracts with four facilities that detain state prisoners, three of which are privately owned. This has led these facilities to look for other ways to make profits, including by detaining immigrants who have been apprehended without documentation.
 

Many private companies have looked into renovating or reopening existing facilities to house immigrants, including the Willacy County Detention Center, which was closed in 2015 following a prisoner uprising. However, advocates are speaking out against reopening facilities operated by private companies with long histories of complaints and scandals.
 

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