“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

Five Private Prisons in Texas to Lose Contracts

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Five private prisons in Texas will lose their contracts following the Department of Justice (DOJ) announcement to phase out the use of private prisons, according to The Texas Tribune.

 

The announcement came after the inspector general of the DOJ recently concluded in a report that federal prisons operated by private companies have greater issues with contraband and inmate discipline than those run by the Federal Bureau of Prisons. The office noted that "In recent years, disturbances in several federal contract prisons resulted in extensive property damage, bodily injury, and the death of a correctional officer."

Multiple incidents in Texas were among those driving the DOJ decision.

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Private prison companies are paid for family detention centers whether beds are filled or not

Corrections Corporations of America (CCA) will receive payment from the federal government from their 2,400-bed family detention center regardless of how many beds are filled, according to The Washington Post.

Due to the high number of migrants crossing the border from Central American countries, the Obama administration agreed to a deal with CCA in a four-year, $1 billion contract to run the South Texas Residential Facility in Dilley, Texas. Typically,  contracts between Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and private corporations have the payout based on the percentage of beds filled.

ICE spokesperson Jennifer Elzea said that the contract is “unique” in its payment because they pay "a fixed monthly fee for use of the entire facility regardless of the number of residents."

Rep. Zoe Lofgren (Calif.), the top Democrat on the House of Representatives' Immigration and Border Subcommittee, said "for the most part, what I see is a very expensive incarceration scheme. It's costly to the taxpayers and achieves almost nothing, other than trauma to already traumatized individuals."

Elzea also told The Washington Post that the Karnes County Residential Center, operated by GEO Group, is under a contract with a similar pay structure, where it will receive full payment regardless of the number of beds filled.

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CCA Could Lose Family Detention Contract

Corrections Corporation of America (CCA), the largest private prison corporation in the U.S., saw its stock prices dip as it announced to investors it may lose a contract to detain migrant families for Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), reports the Huffington Post.

After revealing to investors the potential loss, the company said they "can provide no assurance that we will be awarded a new contract for family unit detention, will successfully renegotiate our existing contract with ICE, or will be able to maintain the margins we currently generate from the contract."

The contract in question is  for the South Texas Family Residential Center, more commonly known as the Dilley family detention camp. If CCA were to lose the contract, it would put a major dent in their revenues. According to their most recent annual filing, the Dilley facility generated $244.7 million for the company last year.

Private food workers charged with improper sexual activity at Tom Green Jail

Two food service workers for Aramark Correctional Services have been charged with improper sexual activity with prisoners at the Tom Green County Jail in San Angelo, according to a report in the Abilene Reporter-News:

"Luis Carlos Ayala, 51, and Shannon Lorrian Strasburg, 45, were arrested and charged Tuesday with violations of the civil rights of person in custody; improper sexual activity with person in custody, according to a news release from the Tom Green County Sheriff's Office. The two are private employees of the contractor that prepares meals in the jail, the release states.

Ayala and Strasburg were charged with "separate and distinct violations" and booked into the Tom Green County Jail, according to the release. The charge is a state jail felony, punishable by 180 days to two years confinement and up to $10,000 in fines.

The Sheriff's Office Criminal Investigation Division received information that the offenses were taking place in the jail and conducted several interviews, the release states. Investigators presented the information they'd gathered to the District Attorney's Office and obtained warrants for both suspects."

The Tom Green County Jail is operated by the county and not a private operator, but sub-contracts out food service to the Pennsylvania-based Aramark, according to the story.  Aramark's current contract, signed in 2014, runs through August.  

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