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Limestone County Detention Center to reopen for 17-year-olds from Harris County

The Limestone County Detention Center is to reopen after being closed for three years, reported 10 KWTX

This summer Limestone County signed a new contract with LaSalle Southwest Corrections, a privately owned prison corporation, to run the detention facility. The warden, Charles Vondra, said that the detention center will be used to detain 17-year-olds from Harris County, with a beginning population of about 130. The warden then said the population should grow to 650 inmates. 

Limestone County Judge Daniel Burkeen said the facility has not been used in over three years. Until May 2013, the facility was run by Community Education Centers (CEC), another private prison corporation. CEC pulled out after they lost their contract with the federal government to detain inmates, but county officials had hoped that another private corporation, Management Training Corporation (MTC) would continue to operate and pay rent on the facility. However, after two months of operation, MTC announced that it was closing the center after Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) said they would no longer be sending immigrants detained at the border to the center. ICE instead decided to return them to their home countries. 

The county hopes that reopening the detention center will boost the local economy as well as create new jobs for the area. 

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'I can't breathe': Father begged for help before dying in private jail

Video from a private prison on the Texas-Arkansas-Louisana border showed the distrubing circumstances around the death of a 35-year old man that occurred last July, reported Carbonated.TV. The prison, Bi-State Jail, is privately run by LaSalle Southwest Corrections

Video of Michael Sabbie begging for help. Source: Huffington Post

Michael Sabbie, a father of four, was found dead in his cell three days after his arrest. When he had arrived in court earlier, he said that he was spitting blood and needed to go to the hospital. The video, released by Huffington Post last Wednesday, shows prison guards violently subduing Mr. Sabbie.

The guards flung him to the ground, piled on top of him, and then pepper-sprayed him in the face. A sixth guard joined in and accused him of resisting the other guards, and ignored Mr. Sabbie as he begged "I can't breathe. Please, please, I got pneumonia." He then continued to beg for water as he was examined by a facility nurse, who said his symptoms were normal for someone who had just been hit with pepper spray. He died three days later of 'natural' causes. 

Parents of 20-year old who died in Bi-State jail file suit

According to the Associated Press, and reported by TXKtoday, the parents of a 20-year old Texarkana woman who died in a Bi-state jail this summer have filed a law suit against a nurse who reportedly refused to treat her. The woman's blood sugar level was over 800 when she died on July 1st, according to the law suit. The nurse in question refused to test the woman's blood sugar levels despite multiple high level readings from earlier in the day. The nurse reportedly put glucose (sugar) in the woman's mouth after receiving a reading that said she had high blood sugar levels. 

The law suit said that the investigation by LaSalle Corrections, the private company that operates the Bi-State jail, was inadequately conducted. LaSalle Corrections is in charge of overseeing the medical care at the facility and is involved in the law suit the family has filed. The Bi-state jail is located on the border between Texas and Arkansas, but the lawsuit has been filed in Arkansas, when the family lives. 

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Prisoner dies at McLennan County private jail

The death of a prisoner reported on May 30 at the Jack Harwell Detention Center in McLennan County is under investigation by federal, state, and local officials. The private jail is operated by private, for-profit prison company LaSalle Corrections. 

Litte information is known about the incident, however, a news report stated:

"McLennan County Sheriff Parnell McNamara did not return phone messages Tuesday. Sheriff’s Office Capt. Ricky Armstrong declined comment, saying the inmate was a U.S. Marshals Service prisoner and referring questions to the marshals service.

Deputy U.S. Marshal Joe Bays also declined comment, saying the matter is under investigation. Bays declined to provide details of the inmate’s death, his or her identity or suspected manner and means of death."

This is not the first prisoner death at this private jail. In February, three former LaSalle Corrections employees were indicted after surveillance video showed that they lied about conducting head counts after a prisoner committed suicide last November. 

 

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Parker County Jail dumps CEC, goes with LaSalle

Parker County has dumped private jail operater Community Education Centers in favor of of the Louisiana-based private prison company LaSalle Southwest Corrections. According to a story in the Weatherford Democrat (Parker County Jail to get new management), the jail will change hands in October:

Ousting the current jail operator, Community Education Centers, Parker County commissioners voted to award the 5-year contract to the Louisiana-based company due to the difference in price. 

The county has the option to renew the contract twice for two-year periods, according to information presented to the commissioners.

As we reported way back in 2007, Parker County privatized its jail at the time citing cost savings.  At the time we quoted a Grits for Breakfast article questioning whether CEC could provide the same services at a discounted price and still make a profit.  

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Advocates claim victory as immigrant detainees are removed from Jack Harwell Detention Center

In July, we reported protests about sub-standard conditions in the Jack Harwell Detention Center in Waco, Texas. The facility is privately run by LaSalle Southwest Corrections and was not originally meant for immigrant detention.

Protestors argued that officials denied the detainees basic rights like use of the telephone, reasonable access to visitation, or an adequate legal library. 

The protests by advocates and criticism from attorneys apparently worked.

Norma Lacey, from ICE’s San Antonio Field Office confirmed. "We are currently not utilizing the Jack Harwell facility," Lacy wrote in an email to advocates asking to visit immigrants at Jack Harwell earlier this week. "We can notify you should we need to utilize it again."

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Jack Harwell Detention Center draws protests over conditions inside, Rep. Lloyd Doggett weighs in

The Jack Harwell Det

ention Center in Waco was the site of a protest on July 12. The detention center is operated by private prison company LaSalle Southwest Corrections. 

Protestors came from Waco, Austin, Dallas, and Taylor to deliver know-your-rights materials to the facility after attorneys in Central Texas sounded the alarm overconditions in the center.

MyFox Austin reports

"Protestors said the detention center should not be used to hold ICE detainees.

"I would love to see our local jail, our local law-enforcement abide by the law and then just not even enforce those, because they don't have to," said Waco immigration lawyer Kent McKeever.

U.S. Rep. Lloyd Doggett, (D) TX-35, agrees that detention centers aren't the answer.

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Johnson County to foot bill for expanded LaSalle Southwest immigration detention center?

Here's a story we've been following for a while, but haven't yet posted on.  Johnson County appears to be near to floating an additional $20 million to expand a jail operated by private prison operator LaSalle Southwest.  The reason is not, apparently, that the county needs the jail, but that the company is able to turn a profit off the facility's expanded use for immigration detention.   Grits for Breakfast, as usual, has a good breakdown:

"The Sheriff in Johnson County is insisting that the commissioners court must pay to expand the county jail, according to this report out of Cleburne, though "County Judge Roger Harmon appeared to offer every possible scenario Monday that might prevent a big-ticket expense – building, or at least major renovation and expansion, of a county jail."

Sheriff Bob Alford, though, insisted building additional capacity is the only option. Commissioner Don Beeson opined, "Its not popular, but we have a responsibility. We just simply have outgrown this facility."

Failed Inspections & Escapes at LaSalle Southwestern Corrections' Burnet County Jail

It's been a bad couple of weeks for LaSalle Southwest CorrectionsBurnet County Jail.  The facility was the subject to headlines across the state after a Shawshank-like escape where a prisoner broke through bricks under his sink and crawled to freedom through a skylight while guards assumed pillows tucked under his bedding were the prisoner (he has since been apprehended). It appears that both shoddy construction and human error led to the escape.  

According to a story on KVUE ("Sheriff: Jail staff to blame for inmate's escape," March 1) LaSalle Southwest Corrections has admitted fault in the incident:

"It's on us," warden Bruce Zeller said. "Like the sheriff said, the responsibility is on Lasalle Corrections, our facility, and our employees." 

Burnet County Sheriff W.T. Smith is in a battle of words and wills with members of the Burnet Commissioners Court.  Commissioners have blamed Smith's oversight of the jail for the problems, but Smith - rightfully, I believe - complains in the Burnet Bulletin ("War of wards over jail heats up," March 5) that he has limited purview over the facility: 

"I would like to have it, yes. But I don’t believe it’s financially feasible,” Smith said. But that’s not my call.” Smith acknowledged that, "Constitutionally, the sheriff is over the jail,” but said he has little authority.

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Sherman's Fight Against Proposed Private Prison

From a story I wrote at Private Prison Watch, the city of Sherman, TX in Grayson County has been entrenched in an ongoing battle against a proposed for-profit prison and an irresponsible construction scheme for years. Just recently, the city commissioners met again last Monday to discuss a land deal for the new prison -- before even signing a contract with a prison operating company! However, the county remains at a stalemate, as commissioners take the public opposition into consideration. All-in-all, it will cost the county $33 million to contract the construction and maintenance to LaSalle Corrections, when it would only cost $31 million to rennovate and expand the existing Sherman jail. Perhaps cost is not the only issue.

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