Friday, July 13, 2007

Doing the Inmate Shuffle, and Singing the Contract Prison Bed Blues

A lot of inmates in Texas jails and prisons appear to have significant bus trips ahead of them if the ongoing shell game outlined in disparate, recent media reports continues. In the last few weeks, various jurisdictions have announced they plan to rent expensive jail and prison space from other jurisdictions and private vendors, often moving prisoners many hundreds of miles away.

Oddly, Texas both has quite a few prisoners coming into the state, and now some will begin to be transported out. Texas already has highest percentage of people on the planet under control of our criminal justice system. Don't you think that means the market is saturated? Where will it end?

Everywhere you look state and local governments are shuffling inmates around from facility to facility, state to state to manage their over-incarceration crisis, but sometimes it seems like we're just robbing Peter to pay Paul.

We've got Idaho sending more of its inmates to Texas, but meanwhile, in Houston, the Harris County Jail is so full they must send inmates to a private jail in Louisiana.

In other words, when they squeeze the balloon in Idaho, prisoners wind up in West Texas. Squeeze the balloon in Harris County and they wind up in Louisiana. But those are just the highest profile examples.

Though so far it's been reported nowhere but on this blog, the Texas Youth Commission wants to send 10-13 year olds to private facilities, presumably in Texas (though I don't yet have the RFP). TYC also will parole or transfer to TDCJ all 19 and 20 year olds, if they haven't already, and about 500 misdemeanants supposedly will soon be released back to their home counties, according to media reports, where they might go home or be placed in a county facility.

In Tyler a leaky jail caused the Sheriff to ship 60 inmates to Upshur and Kaufman Counties. Elsewhere in Texas, Nacogdoches inmates bring in $900 per day in revenue to Gregg County, but obviously costs Nacogdoches taxpayers the same amount.

Meanwhile, California plans to send 8,000 prisoners out of state in the next few years despite four recent inmate deaths in out of state contract facilities - given trends in private capacity, I'll bet a lot of those wind up in Texas.

It's also becoming increasing clear based on the incidents at Geo units involving Idaho prisoners that Texas does not have an adequate regulatory structure to oversee private contract facilities. Most recently in Bexar County, a private prison firm allegedly bribed a top political aide to county Sheriff Ralph Lopez. That case was brought by local prosecutors - the Texas Commission on Jail Standards has neither the staff nor authority to investigate or fix those kind of problems.

I know I sound like a broken record, but there are many other means to reduce jail overcrowding than to rent beds out of county or build more jails. Here are two posts with links to a lot of different ideas being tried in jurisdictions around the state. I'll bet some of them would work in the county where you live:


Anonymous said...

Hi Scott,

I need some help from your expertise. I'm on the board of CPI ( and we're trying to find a legislator that has made great strides in helping inmates -- not just the folks who are 'tough on crime'. I can give you more info if you'll shoot me an email -- I would have emailed you but this is the only way I could find to contact you.

My email is sbinion at austincc dot edu. (work email) Thanks!

Don said...

Private prisons are supposedly overseen by the Texas Commission on Jail Standards, so you know how that goes. They certify or decertify county jails, but it doesn't mean anything one way or another. Lubbock County jail hasn't passed certification in years. So, if the client agency won't hold people like GEO accountable there's not much accountability anywhere in that game.

Anonymous said...

I could free-up one bed in TDCJ, just give me the word and I'll pay out of my own pocket to have my hubby over here in the UK. I bet I'm not the only one either. Cost to TDCJ = $0, cost to me = priceless

Anonymous said...

I'm with sunray's wench. Send me my hubby and I'll pay for him to come home. That's two less inmats in TDCJ. like she said cost them 0$. Me priceless

Anonymous said...

If they would stop being so greedy then they wouldnt have this problem. They have dudes just sitting in there that they have already granted parole to with FI-2s but instead of sending them home, they gave them dates that is months away, I think it is in the hopes that they will get into trouble and they can pull their parole. I know of three dudes that would gladly give up their bed to come home.

Anonymous said...

Send my son to me! How many do we have now? 6. I will be responsible for him.

Anonymous said...

Hell send my husband home and i'll pay for him and the rest above me. the system is rediculous