You are here

Budget

Willacy County Local Gov't bonds downgraded to junk, county and city left to plug gaping budget holes

Last month, February 25th, an uprising over negligence, poor sanitation, and lack of medical care occurred at the “Tent City” criminal alien requirement (CAR) prison in Willacy County. Following the uprising, Management and Training Corporation (MTC) lost its contract with the Bureau of Prisons (BOP) and fired the nearly 400 employees that worked there. All of the 2,400 prisoners were transferred to other facilities around the country.

Although MTC is investigating the uprising, there are no immediate plans to reopen the facility. The damage, loss of the BOP contract, and the layoffs are piling up on top of the county's $63 million debt from the building of the facility.

All this has caused the Willacy County Local Government Corp. bonds to be downgraded to junk status by the S&P. The already struggling county will be left to fill the gaps in its budget, and will not be able to afford some of its planned expenditures — including a new hurricane shelter.

The model of MTC and other private prison companies is to find small, struggling towns and counties like Willacy and Raymondsville and promise them economic recovery. The aftermath of the Willacy uprising is one more example of how they do not deliver on their promises, and if anything goes wrong, the companies bail — leaving the vulnerable community to fend for itself.

New York Times: Fix Immigration System, Detention Unnecessary

The Editorial Board at the New York Times denounced The House passing a trillion-dollar budget allocating $16 billion of those funds to immigration enforcement.

According to the opinion piece, House Republicans tout this sum as one that "will allow for the highest operational force levels in history" for Customs and Border Protection (CBP). The bill also calls for 2,000 additional CBP officers at border ports and requires that Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) fill no fewer than 34,000 detention beds per day until September 30, 2014. 

The Editorial Board has this to say about the mandatory detention of immigrants: 

Take the irrational obligation to fill all those detention beds, at the cost of about $122 per day. Why make the people who run a vast and expensive law-enforcement apparatus responsible for keeping prison beds warm rather than communities safe--especially when there are low-cost alternatives to detention that don't involve fattening the bottom lines of for-profit prison corporations? 

The authors further denounce the Obama administration, which they claim has used its enforcement powers to deport roughly 400,000 people annually. Immigrants mandatorily detained in for-profit prisons continue to suffer at great cost to taxpayers. 

 

Blogging Categories: 

Grits for Breakfast: Lege to Reinvest Money from Prison Closure into more Private Prison Beds

Following up on the state's continuing contract with the Dawson State Jail more details regarding the decisions of lawmakers to close state prisons is coming to light.  Mike Ward at the Austin American Statesman reported earlier this week that:

Senate and House budget negotiators have agreed to close the 102-year-old Central Unit near Sugar Land to save $50 million, the first such closure of an entire maximum-security lockup in state history.

Our pal Scot Henson at Grits for Breakfast found news in the recent events to be disapointing:

Savings from prison closures should go to diversion programming, not private prisons. The goal should be to reduce incarceration levels, not to plan for failure.

The reality is that lawmakers do have different choices and even setting asside $15 million of limited state funding because of the anticipated need of private prison beds.  State lawmakers have achieved some policy reform that has resulted in lowering the state's incarceration rate, reducing recidivism while not compromising public safety.  And in some respect that spirit of reform has contributed to not only a culture change in Texas but nationally.

Yet the anticipation of lowered expectations continues to plague the Texas Legislature and results in a lack of investment in communities and people.  This is disappointing.  The questions as we move forward is will there ever be a moment when Texas lawmakers who commit to finding alternatives to incarceration also plan for the day when they might not need so many prison beds.  Rather they make the choice to prioritize state resources on in ways that strengthen opportunity for all Texans.

Subscribe to Budget