“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

Who's Lobbying for Texas Private Prisons?

Our friends at Private Corrections Institute (PCI) have released a newly-updated list of corrections lobbyists nationwide (in Excel). Of particular interest to us, of course, is the list of Texas private prison lobbyists, including Robert "Ray" Allen, the former legislator who now is earning hundreds of thousands of dollars as a lobbyist, and his former chief of staff, Scott Gilmore. Plus, Allen was lobbying on the federal level in 2002 and 2003, representing the National Correctional Industries Association while he was still in the Texas legislature (in his defense he said that he was lobbying on the issue of prison labor, not prison privatization).

According to the list compiled by PCI, there were three dozen lobbyists working the state capitol in 2007 on behalf of companies with some connection to corrections (not all of them working for private prison companies). Of the private prison companies with paid lobbyists working the capitol on their behalf this session:

Raymondville Private Prisons and Prison Scandals Have Long History

Yesterday, Kathleen reported that detention center protests have spread from big protests outside T. Don Hutto and civil disobedience at CCA’s Houston Processing Center to a 75-person strong rally in front of the Willacy County Processing Center in Raymondville.

The 2,000-bed ICE detention center, operated by MTC, first drew headlines when it was announced that it would be built in only 90 days and would consist of a series of windowless Kevlar pods. The project then drew fire from Willacy County Attorney Juan Guerra who warned county officials that they couldn’t spend excess project funds on other county projects, as they had planned.

MTC’s Processing Center is by no means the first private prison or prison scandal to engulf Raymondville. Already home to a 1,000-bed private state prison, a 500-bed private federal jail, and a 96-bed county jail, the county is known, even by county leaders, as Prisonville.

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Protesters Target Private Prison in Raymondville

About 75 protesters from across the state gathered outside of the Willacy Detention Center in Raymondville this weekend. The private prison, which attracted national attention when it became operational in a mere 90 days, holds 2,000 people. The protesters very aptly described it as a "tent city" --- the prison is not made up of buildings, but a series of windowless structures made of fabric stretched tight over frames. These tents, in turn are surrounded by razor wire (see the photo below).

The 2,000-bed prison is the largest immigrant detention prison in the United States, and part of a broader plan by ICE to imprison more people than ever for immigration violations. The prison has attracted national attention for problems with conditions inside (you can read Democracy Now's interview with Jodi Goodwin or the rawstory.com's excellent story about conditions at Willacy last month).

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Protests Grow at CCA’s Hutto Detention Center

This past Saturday, I joined more than 400 protesters gathered for a spirited vigil in honor of World Refugee Day outside the T. Don Hutto detention center.

As reported here at Texas Prison Bid’ness, Hutto, which holds migrant and refugee families with their children, has been the site of growing protests and problems inside the facility. Saturday’s vigil was sponsored by Amnesty International, and co-sponsored by a number of other groups.

A “freedom bus” from San Antonio, and two buses from Dallas joined protesters from Taylor, Austin, and Houston at the vigil. Amongst the most powerful speakers were Elsa and her children, who spent 6 months incarcerated at Hutto, and Selhadin, an African refugee formerly detained at the GEO Group’s Pearsall Detention Center. National LULAC president Rosa Rosales also gave a fiery speech and Elizabeth Kucinich, wife of presidential candidate Dennis Kucinich, lent her support to the cause.

Hutto’s publicity problems continue to grow in the press as well. Today, The Daily Texan added its voice to the chorus of press outlets calling for the closure of Hutto, calling CCA a “member of the club of misery profiteers.”

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