“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

Lawsuit halts licensing of private family detention centers as childcare facilities, at least for now

CCA's family detention center in Dilley
CCA's family detention center in Dilley
A lawsuit filed by Grassroots Leadership (my organization, and a co-sponsor of Texas Prison Bid'ness) won a temporary injunction on November 20th that halts the Texas' Department of Family and Protective Services from licensing two large, for-profit detention centers in South Texas as childcare facilities.  Private prison corporations Corrections Corporation of America and GEO Group are seeking the licenses for the prisons in Dilley and Karnes City respectively in order to comply with a finding by Federal Judge Dolly Gee that detaining children in unlicensed, secure detention centers violates a decades old settlement known as Flores.   

250th District Judge Karin Crump ruled that the state had errered in issuing and emergency that allowed the agency to license the facilities without interested parties, including Grassroots Leadership, being able to comment on the licensure rule.  The state has now issued a proposed permanent rule on the licensing that allows public comment before December 13th.  

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Following jail suicide, Waco private prison found non-compliant, guards arrested

protest at Jack Harwell
protest at Jack Harwell
Following a suicide at a for-profit jail in Waco, three private prison guards have been arrested and charged with tampering with records that tracked how often they checked on the prisoner, Michael Martinez, who hung himself in his cell on November 1st.  

The prison — the Jack Harwell Detention Center operated by private prison corporation LaSalle Corrections — was also found non-compliant by the Texas Commission on Jail Standards (TCJS) following a review of the facility.  The TCJS review (attached) found that private jailers violated the standard mandating that potentially suicidal or mentally ill prisoners be checked on every 30 minutes.   

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Private prison that detains hundreds of immigrants fails Texas jail inspection

A for-profit prison that houses hundreds of immigration detainees has failed an inspection by the Texas Commission on Jail Standards.  

The Rolling Plains Regional Detention Center is operated by Louisiana-based private prison corporation Emerald Corrections and detains 485 federal contract detainees and only 12 local prisoners. Those 12 local prisoners put it under the purview of the Texas Commission on Jail Standards, which found the lock-up non-compliant during a September inspection.  TCJS standards are considered base-line standards for operating a jail in Texas.

According to the Commission's audit (attached), the facility failed on a number of accounts including misclassification of prisoners, employees operating without a jailer's license, and that the facility was not operating at the required 1 officer per 48 prisoners ratio.  

The review should be of particular concern to immigration advocates as immigration detention standards generally are suppose to meet or exceed jail standards.  

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Private prison operator CEC will continue to manage scandal-plagued Liberty County Jail

Last month, private prison corporation Community Education Centers won a new contract to operate the troubled Liberty County Jail, according to a press release from the New Jersey-based company earlier this month.  The contract has a three year term and a two year option, according to the company, and followed a report by jail consultants MGT America.  CEC has operated the facility since 2006, though the company's tenure at the facility has anything but smooth.  

This past April, two prisoners were found dead at the 285-bed lock-up in a single week prompting a review by the Texas Commission on Jail Standards that found what the Houston Chronicle described as "a slew of deficiencies at the facility, including infrequent inmate observations, incomplete suicide prevention screening and improper distribution of medication."  

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