Saturday, May 06, 2006

More prisons, new contraband problems

The State of Texas can't afford to house the prisoners we've got, much less hire enough guards to police prisons for contraband, but private companies are building more prison units rapidly, hoping to cash in on the immigration detetion boom I wrote about earlier. These two Texas prison-industry trends - expanding immigration detention and the latest fad in contraband smuggling - received some recent media attention:

South Texas Hold 'Em

The Texas Observer published an
article by Forrest Wilder (5/5) detailing the private prison industry's plans to capitalize on the immigration detention boom I wrote about earlier. Wilder describes a future marked by staggering private prison growth, nearly all of it aimed at housing immigrants and much of it in South Texas:
Nationwide, the number of ICE detainees went from 7,444 in 1994 to about 23,000 now; during the same period, the Marshals Service’s population more than doubled to an estimated 63,000. Just in the last two years, Congress has authorized 40,000 new ICE beds over the next five years and given the Marshals Service funding for another 4,000 to 5,000. And the President’s proposed 2007 budget calls for a $452 million increase in ICE funding, including money for another 6,700 beds. One of the companies to benefit from the government’s building—and privatizing—binge is KBR, a Halliburton Co. subsidiary, which in January was awarded a contract worth up to $385 million to build temporary immigrant detention facilities for the Homeland Security Department in case of an “emergency influx of immigrants,” according to a KBR press release. The top companies running South Texas detention centers are the Corrections Corp. of America (CCA), GEO Group Inc., and Emerald Correctional Management.

[Activist Bob] Libal says a “perfect storm” explains the growth in the detention industry. “First, you have this kind of anti-immigrant sentiment coming out of Washington at the federal level; second, you have increased zealotry from the U.S. Attorney’s office to prosecute people criminally for extremely minor immigration crimes; and third, you have these private prison companies that are cashing in on the immigration incarceration boom.”

Cell phones hotter commodity than drugs in prison
Last year inspectors in Texas prisons seized 135 phones, this year they've seized 90 through April alone, reported AP, mostly from two units:

Investigators say prisoners are willing to pay between $350 and $600 to have a phone smuggled into prison. And they often involve a corrections officer in such schemes. ...

The Texas prison cell phone problem is highly concentrated in two prisons the Darrington Unit and Connally Unit in Karnes County, where prosecutors say gang membership is high.

The Darrington Unit, in particular, is considered a "hotbed of corruption" by investigators and prosecutors, Mr. Hall said.

"It's very close to Houston, and you have a large inmate population there from Houston," Mr. Hall said. "They have contacts in Houston."

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

There was a longer version of the cell phone as prison contraband story in the Dallas Morning News published on April 26. Their story focused on an offender who received a 40 year sentence for possession of a cell phone. Because the offense was committed in prison, the sentence is stacked, so the offender will not begin serving the 40 years until he completely discharges whatever time he was in TDCJ for at the time of the original offense.