Last week, a public hearing in McAllen allowed citizens to ask questions about a proposed 1,000 bed private prisons to city commissioners, mayor Jim Darling and city manager Mike Perez.
According to the McAllen Monitor ("At Forum, Crowd Overwhelmingly Opposes McAllen's Private Jail Project," September 11), Florida-based GEO Group put in the only bid to run the proposed facility. Citizens raised concerns regarding the company's previous human rights violations in facilities around the country. The majority of the 60 people in attendance asserted that privatization of prisons allows for mistreatment and misconduct. Previous lawsuits filed against GEO Group pertain to sexual harassment of female employees and prisoner neglect and mistreatment.
In addition, the Occupation Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) fined GEO Group $104,000, testified Astrid Dominguez who represented the American Civil Liberties Union of Texas. "Handing control of prisons over to for-profit companies is a recipe for abuse, neglect and misconduct," Dominguez said at the hearing.
Over the weekend, The McAllen Monitor published an editorial ("Private jail in McAllen questioned," September 15th) raising serious questions about the proposed facility. The Monitor expressed concern about the GEO Group's civil and human rights violations ,as well as the facility's cost to taxpayers, claiming that private prisons have cost other Texas communities millions of dollars.
McAllen is the proposed location because the U.S. Marshals Service allegedly needs a facility in close proximity to federal courts. It appears that McAllen residents may not be convinced that profiting from prisoners is an ethical course of action.
We're happy to introduce the newest Texas Prison Bid'ness blogger Lauren Voyles.
Lauren is a new organizer with Grassroots Leadership - one of Texas Prison Bid'ness's sponsors - in Austin, Texas. She was placed at Grassroots Leadership through the Young Adult Volunteer program, a ministry of the Presbyterian Church (USA). The program allows young people to serve domestically or internationally at sites where they are able to positively impact others, as well as be good stewards of our society and our world.
Lauren will be covering private prison developments for Texas Prison Bid'ness, with a particular focus on immigration detention-related posts.
Corrections Corporation of America has not had a good month in Texas. At the end of August, the company's troubled Dawson State Jail and Mineral Wells Pre-Parole Transfer Facility were both closed after a long battle by criminal justice advocates and state legislators to close unused and unsafe facilities.
Now, CCA has lost another Texas Department of Criminal Justice-contracted facility. The Bridgeport Pre-Parole Transfer Facility, a 200-bed prison holding incarcerated women for TDCJ, will transfer operations from CCA to Management and Training Corporation.
According to an article in the Wise County Messenger ("Change coming at women’s prison," September 11, behind a pay wall):
Management & Training Corp. (MTC), the Utah-based contractor that has managed the men’s Bridgeport Correctional Center since September 2010, is expected to take over management of the women’s facility this month, although corporate officials were unable to release a date by press time Tuesday.
“We’re in the final stages of an agreement with the Texas Department of Criminal Justice and Corrections Corp. of America to take over operation of the Bridgeport Pre-Parole Transfer Facility,” communications director Issa Arnita said Tuesday.
CCA has also lost contracts in Mississippi, Idaho, and Kentucky in recent months.
Two private prisons contracted by the Texas Department of Criminal Justice - the Mineral Wells Pre-Parole Transfer Facility and the Dawson State Jail - will close this weekend after their funding was zeroed out during the last legislative session.
As we've reported, Mineral Wells was plagued for years with contraband while Dawson was the site of several deaths of women at its facility, persistent complaints of inadequate medical care, protests, and a campaign and report co-authored by Grassroots Leadership (my organization) calling for its closure.
State lawmakers pushed for the closures arguing that the state had extra bed capacity thanks to a declining prison population.
Dallas Morning News reporter Scott Goldstein toured the facility yesterday and found some haunting messages left on the walls ("Dawson State Jail winds down in final days," August 29):
"The last prisoners this week left the Jesse R. Dawson State Jail along the Trinity River in downtown Dallas.
But inside, the paint-chipped walls and doors that confined thousands over the years carry their messages of despair and hope.
“I WANT OUT OF HERE NOW!!”
“Surrender to death or to life.”
“Don’t be afraid. Soon you will pass out of darkness.”
Over the weekend, we'll be updating our map of private prisons to show that these facilities are now no longer active.