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Parker County Jail dumps CEC, goes with LaSalle

Parker County has dumped private jail operater Community Education Centers in favor of of the Louisiana-based private prison company LaSalle Southwest Corrections. According to a story in the Weatherford Democrat (Parker County Jail to get new management), the jail will change hands in October:

Ousting the current jail operator, Community Education Centers, Parker County commissioners voted to award the 5-year contract to the Louisiana-based company due to the difference in price. 

The county has the option to renew the contract twice for two-year periods, according to information presented to the commissioners.

As we reported way back in 2007, Parker County privatized its jail at the time citing cost savings.  At the time we quoted a Grits for Breakfast article questioning whether CEC could provide the same services at a discounted price and still make a profit.  

It's unclear if, this time around, the Parker County Commissioners addressed any other factors than price in determining the new operator of the jail.  We'd note that when Ellis County Commissioners rated bids for taking over that county's jail in 2013, LaSalle only received a 53 out of 100 rating while CEC got a 65.  In 2013, both Ellis County and nearby Kaufman County rejected jail privatization with opposition from conservative forces.

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Big Stories of 2013 - #4 - Two North Texas counties stand tall, reject jail privatization

As we say goodbye to 2013, Texas Prison Bid'ness is highlighting the top private prison stories of the year.  Our fourth biggest story of 2013 was the rejection of jail privatization from two North Texas counties this summer.  

Ellis County Sheriff Johnny Brown
Ellis County Sheriff Johnny Brown
This year, two conservative North Texas counties — Ellis County and Kaufman County — entertained and ultimately rejected jail privatization proposals after opposition from law enforcement professionals, public officials, and community members.  

We first heard that Ellis County was considering privatization of the Wayne McCollum Detention Center back in March when the county received responses to an RFP from LaSalle/Southwestern Correctional and Community Education Centers.   Neither bid scored well — CEC's receiving 65 points out of 100 to LaSalle's 53.  

Former Ellis County Republican Precinct Chairman Dave Vance penned an op-ed in the Waxahatchie Daily Light highlighting problems with jail privatization including reduced staff benefits and decreased performance.  Ellis County Commissioner Paul D. Perry posted one of Texas Prison Bid'ness' previous articles on his Facebook page saying "I don't like giving for profit entities the power of government, especially when they can interfere with civil rights."  In the end, it was opposition from County Sheriff Johnny Brown that killed the deal.  

The jail privatization debate quickly moved to neighboring Kaufman County where a similar story unfolded.  Commissioners there also entertained proposals by Community Education Centers and LaSalle Southwestern Correctional, and those proposals were ultimately rejected after Kaufman Sheriff David Brynes ended negotiations following an amendment to the RFP that would have allowed privatization without any employee guarantees.

Coupling these stories with last year's rejection of jail privatization in Harris County, one has to believe the tide may be turning against county jail privatization in Texas.  

North Texas jail privatization debate moves to Kaufman County

Last week, Ellis Count

y rejected privatization of its jail after opposition from community members and County Sheriff Johnny Brown.  Now, the debate appears to have shifted one county over to Kaufman County where officials are reportedly entertaining offers from the same two private companies - Community Education Centers and LaSalle/Southwestern Corrections - along with a third company, Emerald Corrections to take over that community's 530 bed jail.  

According to the Kaufman Herald ("Privatization plan draws opposition," August 14th), the privatization plan is running into opposition from jail employees and community members:

"Kaufman County commissioners got an earful Monday morning as employees of the Kaufman County Law Enforcement Center took the opportunity to voice their opposition to possible privatization of the facility. Commissioners had approved a request for bids earlier this year, and now removed a requirement that potential operators retain the current staff, salaries and benefits for at least the first year of private operation.

“Our number one concern is the safety and security of taxpayers and other residents of kaufman county,” said David Smith, a detention officer. “By definition, a private company taking over the jail, their number one priority would be to maximize their profit margins.”

 

We'll keep you posted on developments from Kaufman County as this debate moves ahead.  

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