According to the Tribune Herald, "Precinct 2 Commissioner Lester Gibson sided with Mashek during the sometimes spirited, 45-minute discussion," so the previously avowed consensus for pushing privatization options appears to have momentarily evaporated.
Mashek’s proposal would see the county again running the downtown jail, which has been leased to a private detention company since 1999. County jailers have argued for weeks that private companies hire lower-paid, less-qualified employees who pose safety risks for the public and inmates, as well as potential liability issues for the county.
The jailers also have voiced worries about losing their jobs if privatizing is pursued for the overcrowded State Highway 6 jail, now run by county employees.
The county’s contract with Community Education Centers, formerly CiviGenics, to operate the jail on Columbus Avenue expires Oct. 1. Mashek’s call for the county to take over operations of the 329-bed downtown facility could give the county more time to study long-term solutions to the problem, Mashek told commissioners Tuesday.
He told commissioners it seems the county is rushing into building a new jail when it might not be necessary at this time. He proposed the county form a committee to study the problem while taking back the downtown jail to give the county more breathing room.
“I feel that this step will give us a four- to five-year window to make a sound decision,” Mashek said. “There are too many questions left unanswered and other options that should be explored before making such an important decision on this major and expensive project.”
Previously the commissioners court laid out four options to address jail overcrowding, all involving some measure of jail building and/or privatization, so Mashek's shift toward backing publicly managed jails represents an important shift in the local debate.
Earlier I'd suggested several strategies to reduce McLennan jail overcrowding without new construction. Machek's proposal would buy the county time to implement such solutions and avoid the jail becoming a bottomless pit for taxpayers.
Related Grits posts:
- What options besides jail building for Waco?
- A couple of Jillls with their eyes on a couple of bills
- Costs of privatization debated in Waco
- Deputies oppose Waco jail privatization plans