“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

UT Law professor sues over records related to CCA detention center

Hutto protester
Hutto protester
A University of Texas Law Professor has sued the federal government to get records related to bonds at an immigration detention center operated by Corrections Corporation of America (CCA), according to a story by Jazmin Ulloa in the Austin American-Statesman last week.  Immigration Law Professor Denise Gilman has sued Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) to gain access to records related to bonds at the T. Don Hutto detention center in Taylor, Texas.  

The Hutto detention center has gained notoriety over the years, first when it was a controversial immigrant family detention center between 2006 and 2009 and more recently as the nation's only all-women's detention center, detaining mostly asylum-seeking women.  The facility was the site of hunger strikes last fall by women demanding to be released after prolonged detention.

According to the article:

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Corrections Corporation of America just got bigger in Texas

On October 29, 2015, Corrections Corporation of America (CCA) sealed a $157.5 million deal on a major expansion with its acquistion of Avalon Correctional Services, Inc., a private community corrections company.

Now the nation's oldest and largest for-profit prison corporation will own or operate seven community correctional facilities in Texas: Austin Residential Reentry, Austin Transitional Center, Corpus Christi Transitional Center, Dallas Transitional Center, El Paso Multi-Use Facility, El Paso Transitional Center, and Fort Worth Transitional Center.

The acquistion adds 3,157 re-entry beds in Texas and is expected to boost revenue by $35-$45 million.  We'll be updating our map to note that the former Avalon facilities are now operated by CCA. 

Not so fast, San Jacinto County votes against for-profit immigrant detention center already approved in Shepherd

Emerald Correctional Management is coming up against more community opposition to its proposed immigrant detention center north of Houston. This time, their proposed new immigrant lock-up has found opposition from the San Jacinto County Commissioners Court.

San Jacinto County Commissioners passed a resolution on December 8 in opposition to the proposed new immigrant detention center, according to The Cleveland Advocate (SJC commissioners approve resolution to oppose immigration detention facility in Shepherd area, Dec. 9, 2015).

The vote comes just weeks after the prison company’s representatives persuaded the city of Shepherd, which sits inside San Jacinto County, to let the company pursue a bid with Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) for a new detention center in the city.

County Judge John Lovett said at the December 8 meeting that the proposed location for the project lies mostly within an unincorporated area of the county and outside of the city limits of Shepherd. County Judge Lovett also pointed out at the hearing that the special meeting called by Shepherd had little public attendance.

Shepherd takes the plunge, OKs Emerald’s immigrant detention bid despite company’s past

Less than a week after Cleveland City rejected a proposal from Emerald Correctional Management, neighboring Shepherd voted 4-1 in favor of letting Emerald pursue a bid on a new 1000-bed immigrant detention center in the small city, according to the Houston Chronicle (One community welcomes bid for detention center, another rejects it, Oct. 29, 2015).

Emerald CEO Steve Afeman told the Houston Chronicle that his company was bidding on a 10-year federal contract, with a guaranteed 750-bed occupancy rate, avoiding problems that have plagued other private prison or detention facility contracts in years past as inmate populations have dwindled.

Mayor Niki Coats, who cast the vote that doomed the proposal in Cleveland City, told the Chronicle, "After doing all the research about the industry and the company and the individuals with the company, I was strongly against it,” Coats said. "They approached us with all these numbers, but it doesn't add up.”

Debra Hagler, Shepherd City Secretary told the Chronicle that if Emerald did walk away from the facility or their obligation, as the company did in Encinal, the small city "would try to lease it, sell it, to some other company that can use it."

Hagler and other Shepherd officials would have done well to learn what happened to another Texas town that had to face this contingency. Littlefield, Texas struggled for years after private prison company the GEO Group pulled out of the troubled Bill Clayton facility.

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