Johnson County Law Enforcement Center should have a new private subcontractor no later than Sept. 15 after the recent decision of Community Education Centers to end its agreement with the county to run the jail.
CEC signed a three-year contract with the county in September 2008.
CEC used an escape clause, County Judge Roger Harmon said Tuesday, extending the county six months notice of contract termination.
CEC warden James Duke could not be reached for comment, but CEC officials told Johnson County commissioners that the corporation was losing money in its operation of the jail.
Johnson County entered the contract with CEC on the assumption that a near-endless wave of immigration detainees would fill up as many jail beds as they could build. As it turned out, that wasn't the case:
CEC expected to make the bulk of its money by filling unoccupied beds with immigration detainees.
“The average population is 450 to 500,” Duke said last year. “There are empty beds. That’s attractive to us. We take those empty beds and help the county get contracts with other entities such as Immigration Customs Enforcement. Corrections 2 [block] has 176 beds. We put ICE detainees in those beds. ICE pays Johnson County, and the county reimburses us.
“The county makes $5 off every detainee. The county makes money, and we make money.”
That wasn’t the way it worked out, Harmon said. ...
“When CEC contracted with us, we were running about 600 inmates per day,” Harmon said. “Nobody knows why, but the numbers recently have been running around 400 per day. Incarceration numbers are down statewide and nationwide, from what I understand. You wouldn’t think it would be that way with high unemployment, but it is.”
As of March 1, according to the Texas Commission on Jail Standards, Johnson County had just 338 inmates in the jail, so the supposed profitmaker has now become a money suck. By contrast, Cameron County entered into a similar scheme and encountered the opposite problem: Their jail has so many federal prisoners they now must send pretrial detainees three hours away to be housed by other counties at higher costs. So Texas counties have been burned by these deals coming and going. It's never as simple or cheap as it sounds up front when it's pitched. Never.
RELATED: Just to have mentioned it, Texas Prison Bidness had a couple of recent posts related to the private prison contractor now leaving Johnson County: