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Liberty County Jail

Two prisoners dead in one week at Liberty County Jail

Two prisoners have been reported dead in a single week at the privately operated Liberty County Jail. 

Liberty County Jail courtesy of CEC
Liberty County Jail courtesy of CEC

 

According to reports, the body of 57-year-old Beverly Mooring was found “in medical distress and non-responsive in a detox cell” on April 15. She was later pronounced dead at the Liberty-Dayton Regional Medical Center.

Three days later the sheriff’s office received notification that 32-year-old Jeremy Keith Shomo was found dead in his cell after he allegedly hanged himself with a shoelace attached to a shower hook. Shomo’s case is currently under investigation by Sheriff’s Sgt. Chris Ungles and the Texas Rangers.

The fate of Liberty County Jail, managed by private company Community Education Centers (CEC), is currently under debate. The county hired a firm to consult on whether it should continue its partnership with CEC to run the jail. The firm, MGT of America, Inc., told Commissioners back in February that the way to save money was to reduce the jail's population to allow for staffing cuts.  

Time to decide is running out. The county’s contract with CEC expires at the end of the month.

 

Consulting firm to Liberty County: It will cost more for the County to run the jail, unless you reduce population


The Liberty County Jail, photo courtesy of CEC.
The Liberty County Jail, photo courtesy of CEC.
The firm hired by Liberty County to consult on whether it should continue a partnership with a private prison company has some advice for commissioners. MGT of America, Inc. told Commissioners last month that the way to save money was to reduce the jail's population to allow for staffing cuts.  

Liberty County hired MGT last year to advise commissioners on whether County Sheriff Bobby Rader should take over direct operation of the jail or leave it in the hands of Community Education Centers (CEC). 

According to YourHoustonNews.com, MGT consultant Travis Miller told Liberty County commissioners that, "the cost of operating the jail remains the same regardless of who is running it, whether it is a private company, the county, or 'Johnny’s Garage and Jail Service.'"

Miller went on to say that the only way to get significant savings would be through a reduction of staff, and that this would require “a huge reduction in the number of inmates.”

But later in the same meeting, Miller said that  that without a reduction in jail population and a resulting reduction in staff, the cost to the county would rise if it took over the jail. Miller said this move would make jail employees eligible for county benefits, (including pensions) potentially costing the county at least $400,000 more. 

Pct. 4 Commissioner Leon Wilson, who ran and won on a platform of kicking CEC out of the jail, suggested creating a separate division for jail employees with a different benefits plan.

The county is now waiting to hear more from from MGT. In response to questions about the potential $400,000 increase if the county takes over, Miller told commissioners that MGT "did not yet have a cost-per-inmate figure to present and has not yet looked at the amount the county is currently paying under its contract with CEC."

Miller expects MGT to have its final report, for which the firm was paid $64,000, ready in three weeks. 

Time is of the essence. The county’s contract with CEC expires on April 30.

 

Liberty County hires consultants to look into who should run the jail

The Liberty County Commissioners Court decided Tuesday, August 26 to hire a firm to consult on whether County Sheriff Bobby Rader should take over direct operation of the jail or leave it in the hands of a for-profit, private prison company.

The Liberty County Jail, photo courtesy of CEC.
The Liberty County Jail, photo courtesy of CEC.
The Liberty County Jail is currently operated by Community Education Centers. The consulting firm, MGT of America, Inc. is based in Austin and will be paid $64,000 to help the county decide what to do.

The issue is whether the contract with CEC is costing the county. In 2012, a study by Texas A&M researcher Lynn Greenwood for Liberty County found that de-privatization of the Liberty County Jail would help the county to manage its jail costs as it continues efforts to reduce the population in its jail. 

County Auditor Harold Seay told Commissioner Mike McCarty that this year’s cost overrun for the jail’s operation will be about $800,000.

“We’ve got to do something,” Commissioner McCarty said.

For his part, Sheriff Rader explained his concern that while many claim the county can save at least $1 million by operating the jail directly, he might be blamed if that does not happen.

Still Sheriff Rader told the court, “We’re ready to take to take it. You give me the money to run it, and we’ll run it.”

One candidate in Liberty County has made ending the county's contract with CEC part of his platform. Leon Wilson listed "Stopping the waste of millions of dollars by bringing the jail back under County administration" as the first item on his platform when he announced his candidacy in the primaries in the Liberty Vindicator.  Wilson won that primary and will be on the November ballot. 

And like many for-profit, private prisons, the Liberty County Jail has seen it's share of scandal. For example, a CEC guard at the jail was arrested on March 15 for allegedly bringing contraband into the facility. Another CEC guard was arrested for smuggling drugs into the jail in 2013. A district court judge also accused CEC of thwarting its efforts to reduce the jail population with increased costs. 

However, the commissioners may be still considering contracting with priviate prison companies. The court also voted on Tuesday to issue a request for proposals from companies that might want to run the Liberty County jail.

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CEC: Officer Allegedly brings Contraband into Jail

A correctional officer at the Liberty County Jail, operated by Community Education Centers (CEC), was arrested on March 15 for allegedly bringing contraband into the facility, according to the Liberty County Vindicator ("Jailer Arrested for Allegedly Bringing Contraband into the Jail" 3/17). 

Following a routine "shakedown," or search of prisoners' cells and correctional officers for contraband items, which only resulted in minor violations, officer Tyree Richards, 26, came into work late. Before being searched to allow him entrance into the jail, Richards visited the restroom, which had already been searched for contraband. CEC Seargant Luther Burks, upon entering that same restroom, discovered five packages of tobacco in the trash. A joint investigation by the Liberty County Sheriff's Department and the facility determined that Richards had indeed brought the tobacco into the jail, a delivery for which he would have been paid $100. 

Liberty County Sheriff Bobby Rader weighed in on the situation as well: 

Contraband is an issue for every jail facility. I commend Warden Carnes and her supervisors for staying on top of the issue. While the tobacco itself might not seem like a big concern to some, the fact that a jailer's integrity had been compromised and he could then be made to bring in other items, including safaty threats, is a major issue that needed to be dealt with immediately. 

 

Liberty County Republican Wants Private Prison out of County Jail

Leon Wilson, a lifelong resident of Dayton, announced his candidacy yesterday for Liberty County Commissioner (The Vindicator,"Wilson Announces Candidacy for Liberty County Commissioner, Precinct 4"). Wilson is running as a Republican for Precinct 4. 

If elected, Wilson wishes to bring the Liberty County Jail back under county control and stop the "waste of millions of dollars" associated with privatization. 

Liberty County has a troubled financial history with regards to the county jail. The county's efforts to decrease the jail population has been thwarted due to their contract with Community Education Centers (CEC), the company that previously operated the jail,  As the jail population decreases, the cost per prisoner increases. 75th District Court Judge Mark Morefield had this to say about the contract:

One (private prison) bid said that if the inmate population goes below 200, the cost per inmate goes from $63 to $68 per day. If we work really hard to decrease the inmate population, the cost will go up to $70 per day...[t]hey are taking all the incentive out of it.

Wilson has served with the Liberty County Police Department, the Liberty County Sheriff's Department, the Department of Public Safety, and the Harris County Attorney's Office and the Harris County District Attorney's Office.

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