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Ector County Correctional Center

Ector County Year in Review: Private prisons weren't the only thing that stank

Ector County Courthouse
Ector County had to deal with more waste and smells than they were originally planning on during 2016, reports the Odessa American.

In March of 2016, it was reported that the Ector County Courthouse was dealing with sewage leaking into offices, putting both workers and official documents at risk. This is because on the floor above the courthouse is the Ector County Correctional Center, the jail operated by  private prison company Community Education Centers (CEC). Poorly maintained sewage pipes had been clogged by inmates, which led to bursting pipes.

The problem caused some dispute as some in Ector County wanted CEC to pay for some or all of the repairs needed. CEC offered to pay only a certain amount for damages caused. Some county commissioners approved of asking CEC pay for damages, while others thought it would make the county look like “adversaries” to the private prison company.

Another issue Ector County dealt with this year was a reported problem of bird excrement. Birds enjoy roosting in the honeycombs of the Ector County Courthouse and have created a mess. The county reportedly is going to install machines that will spray a grape mist to keep the birds away from the courthouse. It seems the birds know what a mess the jail inside is, and want the outside to match. One would hope that they are able to solve the problem, or else Community Education Centers may have to clean up more than just sewage.  

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Ector County decides to extend jail contract

Ector County commissioners decided on Monday to extend the jail contract with Community Education Centers, Inc. (CEC) to operate the jail located in the Ector County courthouse, reports the Odessa American.

As we reported earlier, Ector County commissioners met to determine whether or not to extend the jail contract with CEC after a myriad of problems had plagued the jail. At the meeting on Monday, commissioners agreed to extend the contract with CEC until August of 2020.

They also approved of money from CEC to go to repairing the sewage system that has led to leaks in the county offices located below the jail. This has been an issue since March of 2016, with county commissioners at odds over how to handle the payment of repairs. That issue has been resolved, with the contract approved by the county including a one-time payment of $150,000 for pipe repairs. Precinct 1 commissioner Eddy Shelton said that CEC would also pay for materials that were damaged by the leaking sewage.

The deal extends the contract until August of 2020 with the county receiving between $600,000 and $650,000 each year from the jail. CEC also agreed to increase the fee paid to commissioners if the company receives an increased per diem amount from the U.S. Marshals, which contracts with CEC at the facility.

Precinct 2 Commissioner Greg Simmons hopes that the company will get $4 or $5 more per day for each prisoner, which could create an increase of between $160,000 and $200,000 a year. Community Education Centers, Inc. has yet to sign the contract extension.

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Commissioners to consider jail extention

Ector County Courthouse
According to the Odessa American, Ector County commissioners are considering an extension with Community Education Centers, Inc. to keep a federal jail in the Ector County courthouse.

Community Education Centers, Inc. (CEC) is a for-profit prison company that has been operating the jail inside the Ector County courthouse. In March of 2016, water and sewage began to leak from the jail into county offices, putting many official documents at risk and creating an unpleasant and potentially risky work environment for the employees. The water and sewage resulted from faulty pipes that had been blocked by federal inmates in the jail.

Ector County commissioners then instructed the maintenance team from the courthouse to seek help from CEC on repairs to the sewage pipes. CEC said that they would spend up to $15,000 on the repairs, even though the project was estimated to cost between $3 and $4 million. The county was working on an agreement with the company to pay for the damages, with the county judge proposing to send a demand letter to CEC for the cost of the damages. However, Precinct 2 Commissioner Greg Simmons said that the demand letter may send the wrong message to the private prison company. At the October 24th meeting, Simmons said, "I just don’t want it looking like we’re adversaries, ... It’s like somebody bumping into your car and agreeing to pay for it, then you hire a lawyer."

The agreement that Ector County hopes to renew for the federal jail was previously signed in July of 2015. As of now, there is no report on how long the extension will be.   

 

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County judge wary of “looking like adversaries” to private prison company in Ector jail sewage leak saga

According to Odessa American, three Ector County commissioners voted against sending a demand letter to the private prison company Community Education Centers Inc. (CEC) for repairs that are needed for the Ector County courthouse. 

This decision comes after a Monday meeting, where one of the items on the agenda was whether the county should send the letter demanding over $8,500 in repairs to CEC. The Ector County courthouse is in need of repairs after sewage leaked from the Ector County Correctional Facility that is located on the upper levels of the courthouse. The sewage leaked due to faulty pipes that were clogged by the prisoners. 

County Judge Ron Eckert placed the demand letter on the agenda Monday evening, which drew criticism from Commissioner Greg Simmons. Simmons, who is working with CEC on a new lease, said that they "don't want it looking like we're adversaries." However, Eckert said that he wanted to be transparent with county taxpayers and show that they were going after the money. He also said that it was more of a request letter than a demand. 

Commissioners Simmons, Dale Childers, and Armando Rodriguez all voted against sending the letter, even after it was amended to be a request letter.  

This has been an ongoing issue for the county that we covered in March, September, and earlier this month

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County to request reimbursement from jail

Ector County Courthouse
Ector County will request over $8,500 in reimbursement from Community Education Centers Inc. (CEC) for damages to the courthouse that came from the jail on the second story, according to Odessa America Online.

The damage reportedly came from plumbing issues in the federal lockup that is located on the second story of the Ector County courthouse. It was first reported in March 2016, when inmates started clogging toilets and damaging sewer lines in the Ector County Correctional Facility.

County commissioners are expected to vote Monday to send a demand letter to CEC for reimbursement of the cost of repairs. It is possible that the reimbursement will increase as the building maintenance staff submit more time and costs for the repairs.

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Jail company to work on courthouse in West Texas

Ector County commissioners instructed building maintenance employees to seek help from Community Education Centers Inc. (CEC) on repairs to the sewage system in the courthouse, reported the Odessa American Online. This issue was first reported in March of 2016, when water and raw sewage began leaking from the ceilings underneath the county jail. This put many official documents at risk and created a very unpleasant work environment. 

CEC is the for-profit, private prison company that operates the jail  located in the Ector County courthouse. There is a smell of sewage in the county offices located underneath the jail that CEC operates. The plan to repair the sewage pipes would involve putting smoke inside the pipes and having CEC employees and building maintenance see where the smoke leaked so they could go about repairing the pipes.

CEC said they were willing to spend $15,000 on the project, which is estimated to cost between $3 and $4 million. This would include repairing the pipes and bringing the building up to American with Disabilities Act compliance.  

 

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Ector County commissioners approve contract extension for troubled CEC jail

At a Monday June 13 Commissioners Court session, Ector County Commissioners approved a one-year extension of the Community Education Centers contract to operate the Ector County Correctional Center, despite numerous issues with the operation of the facility. The jail incarcerates up to 235 federal prisoners.

The facility is located directly above the County Courthouse, which proved to be an unfortunate place to have an office after repeated water and sewage leaks from the prison upstairs. Staff were forced to cover land deed records in plastic to protect them from destruction.

CEC’s deficiencies in operating the facility don’t end with maintenance. In 2013, eight former guards were sentenced for accepting cash to deliver contraband to individuals incarcerated at the prison, and in 2008 a guard was sentenced for smuggling cell phones. A 21-year-old man also committed suicide at the facility in 2008, which may have been tied to understaffing or lack of proper monitoring procedures.

The decision to renew the contract was made despite scant resources and a struggle to balance the county budget. According to OAOA.com, in a May meeting, commissioners even approved “a hiring freeze on all county departments not led by an elected official.”

Despite issues, commissioner Greg Simmons believes that revenue from the facility is helping the county and said that the county could either request new bids or extend CEC another contract renewal for the jail in 2017.

CEC Staff Indicted on Federal Bribery Charges

Recently, officials from the Department of Justice, charged 13 Ector County Correctional Center employees with bribery.  The private jail employees are alleged to have supplied federal inmates with contraband items such as cell phones, marijuana and tobacco in return for cash.  According to a report by the Odessa American ("Federal Jail Employees Indicted," January 4):

"All 13 suspects were arrested Wednesday on bribery counts related to banned items smuggled to inmates in the federal detention facility. Investigators say the contraband included cellphones, charges, tobacco and marijuana. The cases go back to 2011."

The Ector County Correctional Center is a federal lockup facility operated by the Community Education Centers (CEC) and is housed within the Ector County Courthouse.  According to recent reports the indicted employees were fired.  Yet the prison has been plagued with previous scandals that we have noted before.

The investigation in to bribery charges demonstrates larger systemic problems that plague private prisons.  Research shows that the problems associated with adequately staffing private prisons compromise public safety.

We will keep y'all posted on the developments of this case. 

 

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