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Mineral Wells

Bribery Charges Filed Against Former Officers, Inmates of Mineral Wells

According to CNHI News Service, a Parker Country grand jury has pressed charges against two former corrections officers, 11 former inmates and five other individuals for possible involvement in bribery and the intent to provide contraband to an incarcerated person in February 2013. 

Carl James Guittard, 36 and Terrie Elaine Glover, 49, who are both former employees of the Mineral Wells facility, are charged with bribery and intending to provide an incarcerated individual with tobacco. The charges allege that 10 people offered or gave money to both Guittard and Glover with a prepaid debit card. Information regarding the charges reached investigators at the beginning of the year. 

Mark Mullin, a special prosecutor, said it is uncommon for state prosecutors to seek this type of case with the number of defendants involved.

"This is a lot of folks," Mullin said. "You know we've seen it before but we don't deal with it very often and not this many of them." Mullin also stated that, though there have been a lot of contraband cases, none involve as many people as the one in question.

The Democrat was unable to reach the corporate spokeswoman for the Corrections Corporation of America, which operated the Mineral Wells Facility.  

The facility has a troubled history with contraband issues, which is reportedly a reason for the facility's closure in 2013. The Texas Department of Criminal Justice elected to close Mineral Wells for safety reasons, as well as the problems with contraband and capacity. CCA's contract with TDCJ was thus terminated. 

Despite the facility's permanent closure on July 30, 2013, Parker County grand juries have continued to press charges in the last few months regarding contraband violations that have occurred over the last few years.  

Grits Explores which Private Prison Contracts could be Terminated

Our pal Scott at Grits for Breakfast, posted a list of private prison contract term obligations earlier this month.  Grits post was further exploration of a story we posted a few weeks ago regarding the Texas Department of Criminal Justice (TDC) looking to terminate private prison contracts.  Scott adds this analysis:

A couple of notable contracts stand out as potential candidates for cuts. For starters, the Mineral Wells facility was the one unit state Senate Criminal Justice Committee Chairman John Whitmire is interested in closing, and for security reasons, not because of the budget. The contract for that troubled facility ends conveniently around a month after the next legislative session starts, meaning there's a lot of time for budget pressures to build between now and then. What's more, the Board of Pardons and Parole hasn't really been using the Mineral Wells facility the way it was intended, so there's no special reason to keep it opened compared to, say, Intermediate Sanctions Facilities on the list.

Equally interesting to me is the fact that the Dawson State Jail's contract with Corrections Corporation of America is up for renewal next January. 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.

Hopefully, lawmakers will continue to consider the possibility of terminating contracts as they figure out what to do with unused prison beds.

State Budget Problems may Lead to Private Prison Closure

There is one fact that may impact prison capacity over the coming years – like other states -- Texas is dealing with serious budget problems. The Governor has issued his typical mandate -- asking state agencies to find ways to reduce their budgets by five-percent.  Additionally, legislative leaders in the state House and the Senate have suggested that closing prisons is definitely on the table as they work to manage the state’s correction budget.

"Closing prisons? It's absolutely on the table," said House Corrections Committee Chairman Jim McReynolds of Lufkin. "As tight as our budget situation looks, we cannot unravel the fledgling system of diversion and treatment programs that are paying big dividends now for the states. And there's only one other place to look prison operations."

The state's pending budget shortfall in 2011 may result in the closure of the privately run units.  Senator John Whitmire, who chairs the Criminal Justice Committee, has specifically mentioned the Mineral Wells lockup which is managed by the Corrections Corporation of America.

In recent weeks, Whitmire has publicly suggested that the state consider closing the privately run, 2,100-bed Mineral Wells Unit and perhaps aging prisons that are much more expensive to operate and maintain than newer ones.

The Texas Department of Criminal Justice submitted their plan for reducing the agency’s annual budget to the Governor.  The plan does not call for the closing of prison units – private or otherwise.  Rather the focus on cutting costs targets eliminating job positions and reallocating the community supervision funding that was appropriated in 2007 and has contributed to the flat prison population that makes closing prisons a possibility. 

However, according to an analysis by The Statesman, some $10.7 million in funding for 817 beds in privately run prisons would be eliminated, reducing the state’s prison capacity. 

Advocates that promote alternatives to incarceration are asking agency officials and state policymakers to close prisons rather than reduce community corrections funding. 

Looks like this may shape up to be quite a battle in the 2011 legislature.  Time will tell if there is political viability that will lead in the actual closing of state prison units.  We will keep y’all posted as talks develop. 

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2009 Top Private Prison Stories, #3 Private prison proposals defeated in Texas communities

Another year has passed here at Texas Prison Bid'ness, and what an exciting year it has been. As we have done in the past, the bloggers here at TPB would like to recap our favorite or perhaps the most memorable stories/topics over the past year.  Over the next few days, we'll be posting 2009's top five stories related to private prisons.

While the private prison industry continues to grow, several Texas communities said no to private prison sitings in Texas this year. This is the third biggest TPB story of 2009. 

 #3 Private prison proposals defeated in Texas communities

1. Emerald pushes Mineral Wells detention center three times in 2009... 

In Mineral Wells, private prison corporation Emerald Corrections first approached the city about building a speculative immigrant detention center in early 2009.  The company met tough opposition by local businesses and community members, who argued that the economic expense was too great for any benefits the community might receive.  The proposal was withdrawn, but not for long.  Emerald's second proposal for a private detention center was rejected when a motion to continue negotiations with the company died for lack of a second after city leaders balked at being asked to finance the prison through revenue bonds.  The company was not to be deterred however, and is moving into 2010 with yet a third private detention center proposal under negotiations. Emerald also had two similar speculative prison proposals defeated in Caldwell County last year.

2) CLEAT and community opposition defeat Southwestern jail in Grayson County...

In September, we reported that Grayson County's jail bond election had been canceled, and efforts to build a new Southwestern Correctional jail may have been squelched.  The move was a major victory for the Combined Law Enforcement Association of Texas (CLEAT) and other opponents of jail privatization.  CLEAT had indicated that it would file a lawsuit challenging the legality of the Grayson County Commissioners Court meeting that occurred on August 31.  In that meeting, Grayson County had approved a November public jail bond election at that meeting, but Commisioners were hedging their bets on the bond proposal. They also approved several items that would have moved privatization of the jail forward, including a new public facilities corporation (PFC) that would have sidestepped voters by financing a private facility with revenue bonds, and the form of a contract with Southwestern Correctional to build and operate the Grayson County Jail.  While Grayson is still debating its jail's future, privatization does not seem the most likely option today. 

3) Feds Reject Proposed MTC Prison in Nacogdoches

Opponents of a controversial MTC-proposed federal prison in Nacogdoches celebrated in May after the Federal Bureau of Prisons pulled the plug on the proposed facility.  While public offials were generally in favor of the proposed facility for immigrants to be deported following their sentences, community opposition to the facility was fierce and included an effort to bring the issue to a referendum vote by amending the city's charter and gathered over 2,700 signatures on their website, and impressive feat in a town of less than 30,000 total population. .

Stay tuned for the second biggest TPB story of 2009...

Emerald targets Mineral Wells for "ICE detention center" for third time

Emerald Corrections has come back to the city of Mineral Wells for a third time in an attempt to construct a 500-1000 bed speculative detention center.  This time, on a divided vote, the city council approved negotiations with the prison company.  According to the Mineral Wells Index ("Emerald receptive to negotiations," December 3),

The project to bring an immigration detention facility to Mineral Wells began moving ahead again Wednesday after the city council gave the go ahead Tuesday night.

Less than two months after the same agenda item failed for lack of support, the city council approved a resolution Tuesday night authorizing the Mineral Wells Local Government Corporation to continue negotiations with Emerald Correctional Management to build a detention facility in Mineral Wells.

Steve Butcher of the Industrial Foundation told the Index Wednesday afternoon the project seems to be moving ahead again.

As we've reported, Emerald has been rebuffed in Mineral Wells twice.  Locals were concerned about the placement of the first proposed facility near a business district, and then balked at Emerald asking the city to finance a prison the second time.  At that time, not two months ago, Emerald had this to say:

“That’s a pretty clear message that the city council has no interest in doing this project,” Steve Afeman, chief operating officer of Emerald, said Wednesday morning. “We’re not about to go back.”

I guess that sentiment didn't last long.  Contacts in Mineral Wells tell me that this fight is far from over.  Well keep you posted on the private prison debate in Mineral Wells. 

See our previous coverage:

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Emerald's bid for Mineral Wells detention center dead for a second time

Private prison corporation Emerald's second attempt to build a speculative immigrant detention center in Mineral Wells is officially dead, according to a story from the Mineral Wells Index ("ICE project deal dead," October 8):

A two and-a-half year effort to bring an illegal immigrant detention center to Mineral Wells ended Tuesday night with several long seconds of silence from city council members.

A resolution to continue negotiations with Emerald Correctional Management to build a detention facility funded by non-recourse revenue bonds issued by the Mineral Wells Local Government Corporation failed when council members failed to second a motion in support.

“That’s a pretty clear message that the city council has no interest in doing this project,” Steve Afeman, chief operating officer of Emerald, said Wednesday morning. “We’re not about to go back.”

The story itself has some interesting tidbits.  After private financing for the facility fell through, the company tried to convince the city to float revenue bonds to pay for the facility's construction.  The City Councilmembers were having none of it. 

“I don’t think it’s the right thing at the right time,” [Councilmember] Terry said. “I want to see the Baker Hotel situation [succeed] and I don’t want anything to get in the way … I just think there are better deals out there and eventually they’ll come. I feel that Emerald is not being up front with us.”

Terry was the lone dissenting vote when the council agreed to accept a lower impact fee than Emerald announced they would pay the city before the site was moved, asking whether it would be a sign of things to come.

“I don’t like the idea of the city having to issue bonds,” councilman Tommy Blissitte told the Index Wednesday. “It would look bad on the city if they defaulted.”

Clearly, this is a major victory for opponents of the private detention industry in Mineral Wells and around the state.  As we've reported, this is the second time that Emerald has been rebuffed in Mineral Wells this year.  Emerald also had two similar speculative prison proposals defeated in Caldwell County last year.  In spite of the rejections, the private prison company vows to continue pitching private detention centers, even in face of an immigration detention reform that may reduce demand for ICE detention beds. 

“It’s a business decision that the city made and we respect that,” [Emerald's] Afeman said. “There are two other sites that we’ve been in contact with this week.” 

We'll keep you posted on where Emerald moves next with their speculative prison plans.  See our previous posts on Emerald's proposed detention centers in Mineral Wells:

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Mineral Wells rejects Emerald detention center financing deal

From the Mineral Wells Index ("Council declines Emerald finance proposal," October 7),

Mineral Wells City Council on Tuesday declined to second a motion to finance a proposed Immigrations and Customs Enforcement detention facility.

Emerald Correctional Management Company said it was unable to date to secure private financing for the 500- to 1,000-bed facility that would house detained or arrested illegal immigrants. The company asked the city to issue public revenue bonds to build the estimated $50 million project.

After a presentation during Tuesday's council meeting, council members asked several questions, and Councilman John Ritchie made a motion to approve the financing request. However, no member of council seconded the motion, and the motion died with no further action or discussion.

What that means for the project's future is not certain. The Index is working on the story and will post it later today.

This is clearly good news for the city of Mineral Wells.  As I wrote yesterday, building a speculative detention center under the auspices that an ICE contract may appear seems less and less like a good idea.  And, floating bonds to pay for such a detention center can be a really bad idea.  Just look at the Littlefield, Texas or Hardin, Montana for examples of what can go pretty horrendously wrong when a municipality floats bonds to pay for a prison that may or may not end up with prisoners.  We'll keep you posted on how this story plays out. 

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DHS to announce new reorganization plans; Will Mineral Wells move forward with Emerald's supposed ICE detention center?

Today, Department of Homeland Security secretary Janet Napolitano and Immigration chief John Morton will announce the second phase of a reorganization of the ICE detention system.  While the details are still hazy, it looks like it may not be good news for the private prison industry.  According to the New York Times ("Ideas for Immigrant Detention Include Converting Hotels and Building Models, October 6) article on the announcement,

The Obama administration is looking to convert hotels and nursing homes into immigration detention centers and to build two model detention centers from scratch as it tries to transform the way the government holds people it is seeking to deport.

These and other initiatives, described in an interview on Monday by Janet Napolitano, the secretary of homeland security, are part of the administration’s effort to revamp the much-criticized detention system, even as it expands the enforcement programs that send most people accused of immigration violations to jails and private prisons. The cost, she said, would be covered by greater efficiencies in the detention and removal system, which costs $2.4 billion annually to operate and holds about 380,000 people a year.

It always makes me wary to hear about plans to fix detention system plans by building new detention facilities.  However, the move away from private prisons and county jail contracts could be a good thing.  It's too early to tell if the moves will include closing some of the large and controversial private prisons holding immigrant detainees such as MTC's Raymondville "Tent City." 

One thing is for certain, if I were a city in negotiations with a private prison company for a new 500 or 1,000 bed speculative ICE detention center, I may rethink my plans.  That's exactly where Mineral Wells is in its plans for a detention center operated by Emerald Corrections.  A first proposed speculative detention center was rejected earlier this year after public outcry.  Emerald has been in negotiations with the city on a second proposed site, and the city will vote later today on whether to continue those negotiations.  We'll keep you posted on developments. 

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Emerald proposes second site in Mineral Wells for supposed ICE detention center

Private prison operator Emerald Corrections has proposed a second site for a purported immigrant detention center in Mineral Wells, according to an article in the Mineral Wells Index ("ICE site land deal closer," May 20).  A previous detention proposal by the company was rejected last month after widespread community opposition.  According to the MWI story,

Plans are progressing to purchase 187 acres in the northeast corner of Wolters Industrial Park to bring a maximum security facility to hold Immigration and Customs Enforcement detainees to Mineral Wells.

“We’ve got the property under contract,” Steve Butcher, a recruiter for the Industrial Foundation, said. “It appears to be on track.”

The Industrial Foundation hopes to give roughly 30 acres to Emerald Correctional Management to build a 1,000-bed facility to house ICE detainees before they are flown out of Dallas-Fort Worth Airport.

They are currently doing a survey of the land, Butcher said, and have submitted a specific use permit application with the permission of the owners.

A public hearing on a specific use permit application has been scheduled for the planning and zoning commission on June 1. If it passes the planning and zoning commission, the city council will likely vote on the application at their June 2 meeting.

While clearly Emerald is telling city officials that this will be an ICE detention center, my reading of this and other stories is that there is most likely no contract with ICE for detainees.  That feeling is compounded by signals from Washington saying that there will not be a massive detention expansion this year. 

Of course, the private prison industry's motto is often "if we build it, they will come," so Emerald most likely just wants the facility built and then will find an agency to provide prisoners, a type of speculative prison building that can drive prison expansion.  We'll keep you posted on how this story develops.  

Prisoner injured at CCA's Mineral Wells facility

A prisoner was hospitalized after injuries sustained during an assault last week at the Corrections Corporation of America pre-parole transfer facility in Mineral Wells, according to the Mineral Wells Index ("Prisoner injured in disturbance at CCA facility," May 1),

A prisoner was reported transported Wednesday evening to Palo Pinto General Hospital from the Corrections Corporation of America pre-parole transfer facility with serious injuries, according to the Mineral Wells Fire Department and EMS.

According to a statement released late Thursday by CCA, “at approximately 4:45 p.m. … an inmate was found in the first-floor dayroom of housing unit 756 with injuries consistent with having been assaulted.”

According to statements by the dispatcher at the time, the caller stated that there was “blood everywhere.” Police also responded to the call but cleared within 15 minutes after speaking with a guard about the problem.

CCA's Mineral Wells facility has been home to numerous reports of disturbances, a rash of smuggling incidents, and was the subject of a three-part series here at Texas Prison Bid'ness by Nick Hudson (see part 1, part 2, and part 3).  It's also been the facility which has consistently generated heated comments from readers of this blog - both against the facility and in defense of it.  

Mineral Wells is currently debating whether to build a second private detention facility - this time an immigrant detention center proposed by Emerald Companies.  That proposal has been defeated once by local opponents, but Emerald is looking at other sites in the area.  Folks in Mineral Wells don't have far to look to see some of the potential downsides of private prisons.

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