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Grayson County Considering Private Jail

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Grits for Breakfast has been doing some excellent reporting on a proposed private county jail and detention center in Grayson County, in the far northeast part of Texas. County Judge Drue Bynum has been promoting the prison scheme as a way tax-payers can avoid having to foot the bill for a new jail.

Although the articles don't specifically mention it, I'm assuming that the facility would be financed using a Public Facilities Corporation, an increasingly common way of financing private prison proposals. PFCs are quasi-governmental agencies that can float bonds for "revenue-generating" projects without public approval. How does a jail generate revenue? By importing prisoners from other jurisdictions, most federal detainees from Immigration and Customs Enforcement or the U.S. Marshals or another state, possibly Idaho?

Of course, the down-side of these financing schemes is that if the prisoners fail to materialize, or the private prison operator poorly performs (remember Dickens County?) and the contracting agency pulls its prisoners, the county is left with millions of dollars in prison debt. In Willacy County, every resident caries a staggering $8,700 in debt for the county's multiple private detention centers financed this way.

A close look at Considering a Private Jail, Prison or Detention Center? might be a good idea for public officials and residents in Grayson County.

Grits has some good analysis

This is an unbelievably bad idea based on an economically flawed premise, that taxpayers won't "foot the bill for the jail."

Of course they will! For starters, he's asking the college to give some private company the land for free. But even more than that, for the company to pay its construction debt, the county must pay for its prisoners, which means it must pay the cost of housing the inmates (which it would have to pay anyway) PLUS the company's profits.

Whether the county or a private contractor operates the facility, it still must meet minimum standards set by the Texas Commission on Jail Standards, so it won't be any cheaper to operate (except to the extent that a private company pays its employees less than deputies make - a marginal benefit at best in the scheme of things that's wiped out if the company takes a profit).

And of course, if the company can't find other entities willing to lease the beds at an inflated price, the county will be stuck with the full tab for space it doesn't need, since it will still need to operate a jail.

In addition to Grits coverage of the issue, local opposition to the jail scheme has popped up, including this No Jail blog. Folks in Grayson County opposing the prison should be heartened by recent defeats to private jail plans in neighboring Fannin County where local residents successfully defeated a private "faith-based" detention center and in Caldwell County where opposition to an Emerald Corrections detention center derailed the plan.

See Grits coverage on the topic:

Wall Street Links Economic Downturn to Private Prison Fortunes

Grayson County Judge Pushing Irresponsible Jail Building Scheme



You state in the article that the faith-based facility was defeated, but you fail to include that Fannin County is almost complete in the construction of a private facility to be run by CEC.