Here's the list of private or public-private jails or prisons I could come up with off the top of my head in Texas that are currently sitting empty or partially empty for lack of customers, in most cases with taxpayer backed bonds which must be paid whether or not the beds are leased:
- Jack Harwell Detention Center, McLennan County Jail
- Lubbock County Jail
- Billy Clayton Detention Center in Littlefield
- Dickens County Correctional Center
- Johnson County Law Enforcement Center
- Jones County ISF
- Limestone County Detention Center
- Bell County Jail
- Former TYC facility in Eagle Lake
- Former TYC facility in Coke County
- North Texas Intermediate Sanctions Facility (recently closed)
- Garza County Jail*
- Jefferson County Jail*
Webb County is presently considering a similar entrepreneurial jail scheme. And in Cameron County, a speculatively built jail was successful in finding clients, so much so that they had no room for their own inmates and now get paid $36.35 per day to house federal inmates while paying $48 per day to house their own. These schemes never seem to wrok out the way their proponents hope, and taxpayers inevitably are left holding the bag.
Exacerbating matters, TDCJ last year canceled contracts with counties for 1,900 beds and doesn't plan rent beds from counties under the new budget, and the filed versions of Texas House and Senate budgets have suggested reducing the number of leased private prison beds by 3,519 and 2,119 beds respectively, further reducing the prospects for short-term demand. Each of the above-bulleted entities is hoping the feds will bail them out by leasing more immigration detention beds, but they won't bail out all of them and might not contract with any of them, given that there's lots of competition from other parts of the country. Corrections Corporation of America alone has around 12,500 empty beds nationwide.
All this to say, whereas just five years ago there was excess demand for private prison capacity, today there is a glut. What's more, quite a few Texas counties got roped into issuing taxpayer-backed debt to participate in this ill-conceived speculative bubble, which now appears to be bursting before our eyes.
UPDATE/MORE: I sent this post to administrators at the Texas Commission on Jail Standards and was advised by Assistant Director Brandon Wood via email that: "There is a former county jail in Jefferson that had been operated by a private that is now empty ... and the 96 bed juvenile facility at Garza was empty for quite some time, but they may be housing BOP in it now. ... [T]he one in Littlefield was originally built as a contract juvenile facility and when that market did not materialize, it was converted to adult." Thanks Brandon! According to the latest TCJS population report (pdf), as of March 1 Garza County had 34 contract beds in its 96 bed jail.and remains 35% vacant.