Big Stories of 2012 - #1 - Momentum Builds To Close CCA's Dawson State Jail

As we usher in 2013, Texas Prison Bid'ness is highlighting the top private prison stories of 2012, based on stories covered by our blog.  Our number one story of the year is the growing number of voices calling for the closure of Corrections Corporation of America's Dawson State Jail.   

TPB Big Story #1 - Momentum Builds to Close CCA's Dawson State Jail

For several years, advocates, legislators, and community leaders have advocated for the closure of Corrections Corporation of America's Dawson State Jail.  As Scott Henson at Grits for Breakfast put it in 2010:

"This ill-placed facility is located in downtown Dallas on the banks of the Trinity River in prime real estate the city hopes to redevelop. So the fact that Dawson's contract ends on January 15, 2011 is a significant date for the city of Dallas: If the state renews the contract, the proposed riverfront redevelopment could be put on hold indefinitely. It's possible, then, we may see members of the Dallas delegation and related development interests pushing for non-renewal, though certainly CCA will have its own lobbyists on the other side."

Senator John Whitmire also publicly floated the idea that the prison could be closed.  However, despite these calls and Dallas citizens' outcry to move the prison off the valued real estate, TDCJ renewed CCA's contract for the Dawson State Jail in 2010.   

In 2011 and 2012, a series of tragic and heartbreaking deaths of women incarcerated at the facility have put Dawson back in the spotlight.  The deaths and related scandals have been chronciled by Ginger Allen of Dallas’ CBS 11 and put together by my colleague Kymberlie Quong Charles at the Grassroots Leadership blog who had this to say about the facility: 

At Dawson, however, far too many people have entered what are supposed to be six-month to two-year stints, and have died inside the prison of medically treatable conditions.  The most heart-wrenching of these deaths is that of a four-day old premature baby girl who was born without any medical staff present.  While there seems to have been a code of silence for years about prisoner neglect at the facility, one Dallas journalist recently began diligently exposing these stories in an effort to seek justice for those who have died, as well as those still incarcerated there, and for the families that are affected by the mistreatment of their loved ones while they are under state supervision.

Senator Whitmire has again called on the facility to be closed along with CCA's Mineral Wells pre-parole transfer facility, and AFSCME, the union that represents correctional officers in Texas, has joined the call for closure.  We will undoubtedly be covering this story well into the 2013 legislative session and beyond, so stay tuned to Texas Prison Bid'ness for updates.

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