“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

Prisoner dies at McLennan County private jail

The death of a prisoner reported on May 30 at the Jack Harwell Detention Center in McLennan County is under investigation by federal, state, and local officials. The private jail is operated by private, for-profit prison company LaSalle Corrections. 

Litte information is known about the incident, however, a news report stated:

"McLennan County Sheriff Parnell McNamara did not return phone messages Tuesday. Sheriff’s Office Capt. Ricky Armstrong declined comment, saying the inmate was a U.S. Marshals Service prisoner and referring questions to the marshals service.

Deputy U.S. Marshal Joe Bays also declined comment, saying the matter is under investigation. Bays declined to provide details of the inmate’s death, his or her identity or suspected manner and means of death."

This is not the first prisoner death at this private jail. In February, three former LaSalle Corrections employees were indicted after surveillance video showed that they lied about conducting head counts after a prisoner committed suicide last November. 

 

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Emerald Corrections to open new ICE detention center in Alvarado

In November, the 700-bed Prairieland Detention Center is scheduled to open in Alvarado, Texas, a remote town in Johnson County 40 mines southeast of Dallas. The facility will be operated by Emerald Correctional Management, a Louisiana-based private prison corporation that manages six other facilities and has faced allegations of mistreatment of detained immigrants and shady contracting practices at other facilities.

 

The detention center will include a 36-person unit specifically designated to detain transgender immigrants, a practice that LGBTQI advocates decry as inhumane because transgender individuals are particularly vulnerable to physical and sexual assaults while in custody. Olga Tomchin, a staff attorney at the National Day Laborer Organizing Network, told Fusion, “ICE has shown over and over again that they’re incapable of detaining trans people with even minimal levels of dignity or safety.”

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CEC faces wrongful death suit from Dallas family

A Dallas family filed suit this month against New Jersey private prison operator, Community Education Centers, Inc. (CEC), after the death of Charles Alvarez. The family alleges that Alvarez was given improper medical care while in custody at the Parker County Jail in Weatherford, Texas. The federal lawsuit names CEC and seven jail staffers as plaintiffs.

Police believe that Alvarez had been assaulted shortly before a Weatherford police officer found him lying in the roadway on North Denton Street on February 7, 2015. However, the officer arrested him on public intoxication charges and took him to the Parker County Jail.

At the jail, Alvarez told officials for 20 minutes that he could not breathe before an ambulance was called. He became unresponsive seconds after an ambulance was requested and CPR performed by jail personnel failed to revive him. Alvarez, 25, was ambulanced to Plaza Medical Center in Fort Worth where he died from internal bleeding, multi-organ failure, and heart failure.

The Parker County jury declined to indict anyone in for Alvarez’ death but obtained arrest warrants for two suspects for misdemeanor charges in connection with his assault.

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Community backlash influenced family detention decision

According to the Corpus Christi Caller times, Jim Wells county officials have voted against continuing negotiations with Serco, a UK-based company that runs private prisons and detention centers in the UK and Australia. Serco had proposed to use a shuttered nursing home in the area as the location of a new family detention center.

County commissioners first voted on June 6 to allow Jim Wells County Judge Pedro Treviño to enter negotiations with Serco over a proposed family detention center located in the county.

The county held a public hearing to get input from the community. During that hearing, there was backlash from the public, including the local bishop, immigration organizations and others. 

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