“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

Opponents of Proposed MTC Nacogdoches Prison File Open Records Request

Citizens Opposed to the Prison Siting, the opposition group to a proposed MTC federal prison in Nacogdoches, has filed an open records request to obtain documents relating to county negotiations with prison developers, according to an article KTRE.com, ("Citizens against prison file open records request," December 12).

The grass roots group COPS, is taking their opposition to a proposed federal prison to another level. The East Texas News learned from Nacogdoches County Judge Joe English that the organization has filed an open records request with Nacogdoches County for any and all correspondence concerning the proposed prison, including e-mails. Requests were also sent to the City of Nacogdoches and the economic development group, NEDCO.

Mayor Roger Van Horn said he's not offended by the request and will turn over whatever there is. Judge English said he has nothing to hide and runs a transparent office. COPS chairperson,

Dr Paul Risk told the East Texas News the group has "no preconceived notion to their request other than they want to know what communication has gone on". The group has contended all along the public was "kept in the dark" during the officials' communications with prison developers. COPS believe those discussions began months before the issue was made public. Risk said, "We just don't know what MTC (Management and Training Corporation) has told them, if anything at all. We just want as much information as we can get."

See our previous coverage of the private prison controversy in Nacogdoches:

Williamson County to Vote on Hutto Contract Tuesday, December 23rd

Via the T. Don Hutto blog, Williamson County will be voting this coming Tuesday on a contract renewal for the controversial T. Don Hutto family detention center in Taylor, Texas. Since May 2006, Hutto has detained immigrant and asylum-seeking children and their families who are awaiting immigration hearings. The prison, operated by private prison corporation Corrections Corporation of America, has become a lighting rod of controversy and has been condemned by human rights organizations as as inappropriate place for children.

The vote will follow what is shaping up to be a large holiday vigil and toy delivery this Saturday (details here) outside of the prison. The last time the Hutto contract came up for a vote, CCA packed the Commissioner's Court meeting with employees, including uniformed guards, bussed in from the prison. The Court meets on Tuesday, December 23rd, at 9:00 AM at 710 Main St. Georgetown, TX 78626. Contact MaryEllen Kersch (512-863-7174, maryellenkersch at verizon.net) or Jose Orta (512-818-9802, orta_jose at hotmail.com) for more information.

CEC/CiviGenics Guard Charged with Smuggling Cell Phone

A CEC/CiviGenics Guard at Odessa's Ector County Correctional Center has been charged with smuggling cell phones into the west Texas facility, according to an article at OAOA.com ("Odessa guard accused of smuggling," December 9, 2008).

A guard working at the Ector County Correctional Center became the latest person accused in Texas of smuggling cell phones for jail inmates, an assistant U.S. attorney said.

John Klassen, a prosecutor with the Western District of Texas in Midland, said Odessan Andrew Allen Zehr, 23, was given a federal charge of bribery. He's accused of taking $150 to smuggle the cell phone and was also accused of smuggling two or three "baggies" of marijuana at $100 a pop since late October. Zehr was apprehended by DEA agents Tuesday afternoon and was in the process of being booked into the Midland County Jail at press time.

Klassen withheld the name of the prisoner that he said offered the bribes pending a further investigation, but said he was a federal inmate, and therefore the bribery charge Zehr had was also federal.

This arrest came as state prison officials were looking into several cell phone smuggling cases throughout Texas.

See Nick's previous coverage of the Ector County facility, where the suicide of 21 year-old immigrant committed suicide last year while being held on an illegal entry charge.

Hutto Opposition Continues; Vigil Planned for Saturday

CCA's T. Don Hutto family immigrant detention center continues to draw protests and media scrutiny. On December 7th, the WilCo Family Justice Alliance held a vigil protesting Williamson County's involvement in the ICE contract to detain immigrant families awaiting immigration hearings. According to the Austin-American Statesman ("Vigil opposes renewing Hutto center contract," December 8),

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