“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

Former MTC Guard Receives Probation for Candy Exchange

A former private prison guard received probation for accepting a candy bar as a bribe from a prisoner at the Giles W. Dalby Correctional Facility, according to the Lubbock Avalanche Journal ("Ex-prison Guard gets Probation for Taking Inmate's Candy Bar Bribe Offer," October 18, 2013). 

The charges alleged that a prisoner bribed Cesar Ceja, a former employee at the Dalby facility, in an effort to convince him to bring contraband into the prison in 2012. He also claimed that a prisoner offered him a Snickers bar in order to obtain chewing gum. Many facilities label chewing gum as contraband because it can be used to jam locks. 

"You know I'm giving you a break," U.S. District Judge Sam R. Cummings told Ceja, following defense attorney's Rod Hobson's suggestion that a lengthy probation would be as effective as incarceration. Ceja could have served a maximum sentence of two years for exchanging candy. 

The Dalby Facility is owned by Garza County and is operated by Utah-based Management and Training Corporation (MTC). It is a federal facility that houses prisoners who are often awaiting deportation. 

America's Best Kept Secret: Immigration Detention Bed Mandate

Every day, people are bought and sold like commodities on American soil, and taxpayers are footing the bill, according to a new video produced by Community Initiatives for Visiting Immigrants in Confinement (CIVIC).  

The video details how the private prison industry has exerted significant influence over Congress, and how that body requires  34,000 immigrants be incarcerated on any given day. These men and women are not permitted free legal services, phone calls and visitaiton are often limited, and medical needs are often neglected. Here's the video: 

What’s more, the House of Representatives has approved a $5.4 million budget for Immigration and Customs Enforcement Operations in FY 2014. Over $2 billion of that amount will be allocated to immigrant detention.   According to Representative Ted Deutch, “No other law enforcement agencies have a quota for the number of people they must keep in jail.”  Here's the CIVIC video:

 

 

 

Private Prison Deal Continues to Cost McLennan County

moneymoneyMcLennan County officials are working to save money in their criminal justice system, but continue to be burdened with a private prision deal that costs the county, according to an article at KWTX.com ("McLennan County: Officials Looking for Jail Savings, Saddled by Private Jail Deal" 9/30/13). 

According to the article, the county aims to streamline its justice system to save money. The county commission approved a new budget in August. Included is a five cent increase in the tax rate and $4.5 million in budget cuts.

McLennan County Judge Scott Felton created the McLennan County Criminal Justice Coordinating Committee--which includes law enforcement personnel, judges, and prosecutors who all want to lower jail costs--after the jail ended up $2 million over budget in this fiscal year. That money can be saved by reducing the jail's population by ten percent, according to the article.  

Unfortunately, any savings from that reduction in population would be countered by a deal that McLennan County made with LaSalle Corrections to operate the county's privately-operated Jack Harwell Detention Center. According to the deal, the county has agreed to pay LaSalle Corrections to house 325 prisoners, whether or not the cells are actually in use. Felton claimed that the deal allowed taxpayers to avoid paying the entire bill, which is the bond payment that LaSalle makes on the facility, according to the article.

"Having LaSalle as operator and us having to guarantee a threshold is better than not having anyone at all," Felton said. Felton is sure that the county-run Highway 6 jail can ensure savings for the county. "There are ways that we can cut back on expenses...to offset some of that," Felton says.   

The private prison industry continues to cause trouble for many communities in which they operate. Clearly, McLennan County is no exception. 

Unopened FedEx Box Protects McAllen, GEO Group from Public Records Request

The ordinary-looking cardboard box containing Boca Raton, Fla.-based GEO Group's proposal to build and operate a 1,000 bed facility in the city of McAllen, Texas remained unopened during the city commission's deliberations ("McAllen returns GEO Group's jail proposal unopened," 9/24/13). According to the article, few people awaiting the city commission's decision at  city hall noticed the box at all. 

"Technically, it was never received because the governing body instructed the staff to return it unopened," says city attorney Kevin Pagan. Thanks to this technicality, the city of McAllen is not required to divulge any of the contents of GEO Group's proposal. According to the article, the city commission made a conscious decision to not open the box, keeping GEO's proposal private, even though the city had no intention of accepting the offer. 

According to the article, had McAllen accepted and kept the proposal, the city would likely have appealed to the Texas Attorney General's office in an effort to keep the proposal's contents private. Several exceptions regarding the documents could have been made under The Texas Public Information Act.  

The cardboard box, whether mailed back to Florida by GEO Group or retrieved by the group in person, left city hall, legally erasing any memory of its existence. 

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