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Sheriff Agrees to Not Take Additional Money from Private Prison Company

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Tommy Witherspoon at the Waco Tribune is documenting unsavory practices between county sheriffs and private prison profiteers.  According to recent reports, McLennan County Sheriff Larry Lynch will not take additional money from Community Education Centers (CEC) ("Sheriff will not receive additional stipend when new jail opens" Waco Tribune, September 26, 2009). 

A known practice in Texas is the payment of funds to county Sheriffs by private prison companies.   According to state law, Sheriffs must authorize a private detention company's presence in the county under its jurisdiction. 

Lynch had been on the private prison payroll for years; CEC paid him and his predecessors a monthly stipend of $1,000 in addition to their annual salaries.  The kick-back paid to county sheriffs has been a source of tension in McClennan County for years. McClennan County sheriffs collect private prison profits through the contract agreement between the county and private prison companies.  CEC acquired CivicGenics. 

In 2008, local officials debated whether to authorize the construction of a new privately operated jail in the area.  And former State Representative Kevin Bailey, then Chair of the Committee on Urban Affairs, requested an opinion of the Attorney General.  Bailey's request can be found hereIt seems that the AG never issued an opinion.

While not all county sheriffs who contract with private prison companies receive an addtional stipend, Witherspoon's investigative reporting has uncovered that CEC operates a 1,000-bed facility in Limestone County. Sheriff Dennis Wilson, whose county annual salary is $49,457, is paid a $24,000 stipend yearly by the county in its contract with CEC, Wilson said.

Perhaps now is a time for another request from an elected official interested in holding county sheriffs and private prison companies accountable.

Witherspoon is doing a good job of tracking this information.  A bill introduced last session that outlawed such practices died on the House floor.   If such a policy gets resurrected in 2011 it will be interesting to see what the AG has to say. 

Related stories:

PDF icon Kevin Bailey AG Request 2008114.6 KB