The uncertainty is troubling many in Mineral Wells.Since the contract for the Mineral Wells unit ends on Aug. 31, TDCJ must decide this summer whether to renew it or let it expire, which is what Senator John Whitmire wants. The Dawson State Jail is the other prime target for closure but the final say is up to TDCJ's board. That group has two meetings between now and the expiration of the Mineral Wells contract - on June 21 and Aug. 23. At one of those two gatherings they'll have to pull the trigger and decide which two units to close. The easiest thing for the agency would be to follow Sen. Whitmire's lead and close Dawson and Mineral Wells, but you never know.
The question that continues to linger is whether the Mineral Wells Pre-Parole Transfer Facility — a 2,100-bed, privately run minimum-security prison — will close.
State lawmakers last month passed a budget that reduces jail bed capacity by $97.3 million, which is exactly the amount that would be saved if both the Mineral Wells facility and the Dawson State Jail in Dallas were shuttered.
But the budget, which still must be approved by the state comptroller and Gov. Rick Perry, no longer specifically names the Mineral Wells facility as one that must close, due to legislative maneuvering by state Reps. Phil King, R-Weatherford, and Jim Keffer, R-Eastland.
Instead, it calls on prison officials, rather than lawmakers, to decide which prisons to shutter and to base that decision on economic factors.
“It’s not over yet,” King said. “But it’s still an uphill fight.”
Mineral Wells officials say closing the prison — one of the largest employers in the community of around 17,000 — would devastate the small city, putting more than 200 people out of work and drying up the flow of millions of dollars each year from the Nashville-based Corrections Corporation of America.
“We’re going to fight this to the bitter end,” Mineral Wells Mayor Mike Allen said. “We will fully support CCA and do our best to keep it here.”
Sunday, June 09, 2013
TDCJ board will decide this summer which two prison units to close
The Fort Worth Star-Telegram today has a story ("Mineral Wells vows to fight devastating closure of prison") about local private-prison backers in Mineral Wells fighting to keep open a prison unit the state doesn't need, touting its pork-barrel benefits creating (mostly low paying) jobs for locals. The article opened: