“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

Debate continues on controversial effort to license family detention centers as child-care facilities

The Texas Department of Family and Protective Services is expected to decide in the next few weeks whether to license two federal family detention camps in the south Texas towns of Karnes and Dilley. In November 2015, Grassroots Leadership won an injunction that prohibited the state from passing an emergency rule to license the centers and mandated that the public be given an opportunity to comment on the licensing. At the public hearing held on December 9, more than 40 people testified against licensing including legal service providers, immigrant rights groups, faith leaders, and a former psychologist at the Karnes family detention camp. Over 1000 people also submitted written comments to TDFPS in opposition to the licensing.

The State of Private Prisons: Where does Texas stand?

In September 2015, the Bureau of Justice Statistics (BJS) released their annual analysis of our nation's prison population, Prisoners in 2014In addition to providing data on total state and federal U.S. prison populations, the report also shows the number of prisoners held in private prisons and local jails by jurisdiction.

So, how does Texas compare to other states when it comes to private prisons?

Texas ranked #1 in the nation for the highest total number of prisoners in private, for-profit prisons by far at 14,368 — roughly 2,000 more than the runner up, Florida.

The report also found that Texas locks up nearly 9% of its total prison population in private prisons. 

Grits: Texas should consider closing more (private) prisons in 2017

Grits for Breakfast had an intriguing post over the weekend on the possibility that the Texas legislature may move to close more prisons or state jails, including private facilities, when it meets again next spring.  Here's an excerpt:

"Texas famously closed three prison units in recent years. Could we close more?

After the Legislature raised property-theft thresholds to $2,500 last session, Grits expects downward prison-population trend lines to descend even further. And with legislators seriously discussing possible reductions in sentences for low-level drug possession, the possibility arises that Texas could close even more prison units in 2017, particularly so-called "state jails" (which in essence house people convicted of fourth-degree felonies, known in Texas penal-code parlance as "state jail felonies")."

Grits asked TDCJ for a list of private facilities with contracts expiring in 2017 that could be natural targets for closures.  All four facilities are operated by Corrections Corporation of America.

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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