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LCS Opening 1,100-bed Detention Center in Nueces County

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The Corpus-Christi Caller-Times has an article about the opening of a new 1,100 bed private detention center in Robstown, a small city in rural Nueces County.  

The new LCS Detention Center near Robstown is scheduled for completion late this summer following a series of setbacks.

Off County Road 2826 in what used to be a cotton field, the new 1,100-bed facility likely will be the destination for prisoners brought there by federal agencies such as the U.S. Marshals, Immigration and Customs Enforcement and the U.S. Border Patrol.

Once it opens, the facility is projected to create more than 200 jobs and pump more than $1 million a year into Nueces County coffers via prisoner contracts and property taxes, county officials said.

LCS Corrections Services is one of the largest private prison operators in the nation, with six other prisons -- one in Brooks County, one in Hidalgo County, three in Louisiana and one in Alabama.

Two things jump out at me from this passage.  First, the story says that the facility is "likely" to hold federal detainees from the U.S. Marshals and ICE and prisoners from the BOP.  The use of the term "likely" to me indicates that the company may not have a contract in place to bring prisoners in.  I wonder, given LCS's record of failing U.S. Marshals assessments, if that agency is rethinking sending prisoners to these facilities. 

While this seems like a line lifted from a company press release, it's almost laughable to claim that LCS is one of the largest private prison operators in the nation.  If anything, LCS is one of the smaller private prison corporations - certainly trailing far behind CCA, GEO, Cornell, MTC, and CiviGenics in terms of "market share" with its six prisons. And, it has certainly had its share of problems in the past.  See our previous coverage of LCS, in our "Closer Look at LCS Corrections" post from last year.

The article then goes on to claim that the area will experience a financial boon from the construction of the prison.

Once it opens, the facility will bring 210 to 220 jobs to the area. Starting corrections workers with no experience will make $11.50 an hour. Once they complete training, the pay increases, Harbison said.

The private prison is projected to generate more than $400,000 a year in fresh property tax revenue for the county and another $1 million or more in annual cash via an agreement where the county passes federal prisoners through to the private facility in exchange for a share of the profit, county officials said.

Because the federal government does not deal directly with private detention businesses, Nueces County is in the process of negotiating a new federal prisoner housing rate for its own jail as well as a rate for prisoners housed under what is known as a "pass-through" contract. That new rate will include the Robstown facility as well as upgrade the rate that LCS and Nueces County are getting for a similar corrections facility at La Villa, in Hidalgo County.

Under the "pass through" agreement, Kaelin will serve as the ultimate oversight for any federal prisoner at the private facility.

Nueces County now gets a daily rate of $2 per prisoner, or some $1,900 a day for serving as overseer at La Villa. LCS gets roughly $43 a day per prisoner.

I'll be interested to see how many of the jobs actually go to residents of the Robstown area.  As prison critics have stressed for years, the vast majority of prison workers drive into rural communities for work.  Prisons are increasingly criticized as poor economic development tools.  Greg Hooks' prisons and economic development study in our Considering a Private Jail? report (PDF) has more information on the detrimental impact a private prison or detention center has on a rural community's economy in the long-run.