Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Commissioner wants off Waco jail privatization train

After previously vowing with his colleagues to consider only privatization-centered options as solutions to McLennan County's jail overcrowding problem, Commissioner Joe Mashek reversed course this week and called for ending the use of privatized jails, reported the Waco Herald Tribune ("Idea of county-run facilities debated as solution to overcrowding," July 30):

Mashek’s proposal would see the county again running the downtown jail, which has been leased to a private detention company since 1999. County jailers have argued for weeks that private companies hire lower-paid, less-qualified employees who pose safety risks for the public and inmates, as well as potential liability issues for the county.

The jailers also have voiced worries about losing their jobs if privatizing is pursued for the overcrowded State Highway 6 jail, now run by county employees.

The county’s contract with Community Education Centers, formerly CiviGenics, to operate the jail on Columbus Avenue expires Oct. 1. Mashek’s call for the county to take over operations of the 329-bed downtown facility could give the county more time to study long-term solutions to the problem, Mashek told commissioners Tuesday.

He told commissioners it seems the county is rushing into building a new jail when it might not be necessary at this time. He proposed the county form a committee to study the problem while taking back the downtown jail to give the county more breathing room.

“I feel that this step will give us a four- to five-year window to make a sound decision,” Mashek said. “There are too many questions left unanswered and other options that should be explored before making such an important decision on this major and expensive project.”

According to the Tribune Herald, "Precinct 2 Commissioner Lester Gibson sided with Mashek during the sometimes spirited, 45-minute discussion," so the previously avowed consensus for pushing privatization options appears to have momentarily evaporated.

Previously the commissioners court laid out four options to address jail overcrowding, all involving some measure of jail building and/or privatization, so Mashek's shift toward backing publicly managed jails represents an important shift in the local debate.

Earlier I'd suggested several strategies to reduce McLennan jail overcrowding without new construction. Machek's proposal would buy the county time to implement such solutions and avoid the jail becoming a bottomless pit for taxpayers.

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Anonymous said...

Wonder if the county paid jailers can quantify whether it's more safe in jails operated by county paid jailers as opposed to jails operated by private company jailers? Just because this guy says it doesn't mean it is true.


lonewolf said...

Sherman Fields escaped from the downtown McLennan Facility ran by Civigenics. Sherman killed a McLennan County resident while he was out. His escape was assisted by a private contract jailer. Also officers from the same facility were involved in drug trafficking. Today the facility is ran by CEC/Civigenics and AGAIN their jailers are under investigation for dealing drugs. Same thing happening in Liberty County...Colorado took the license to operate away from CEC.

Anonymous said...

It does not matter what Mashek said,or Gibson for that matter,as the other two commissioners and the judge did what they wanted to do,as usual.The public has voiced their opinions,the media has voiced their opinions and most of all,the county jailers have voiced their opinions against jail privitization an still the commissioners did not listen.Wake up people! This is our tax dollars they are spending and don't believe them for a minute when they tell you the new jail won't cost the county any money.If it sounds too good to be true,then in probably is.As for the Sheriff,well he hid from everyone until it was time to make the dirty deal with the devil and then jumped right on the bandwagon with Crunk,Meadows and Lewis.It was never an issue of overcrowding or public safety,it was about money in their pockets.It was about the promises and kickbacks that CEC has given to them and will continue to give them,especially now that the new jail has been approved.Larry Lynch was once a respected man in the law enforment community,but succomed to the bribery of his predecessor,Sheriff Harwell and his "sweetheart of a deal with CEC" and the "Good Ole Boy" way of doing things.Sheriff Lynch has fallen so far from grace in the law enforcement community, that the Waco Police Association has vowed not to support him in his 2008 campaign for Sheriff.People don't like crooks,especially crooks who are elected officials.I have to wonder how these crooks feel walking around with a bullseye on their backs? I have to wonder how these crooks sleep at night knowing that they tried eliminating over 200 county employees jobs, so they could line their own pockets? I hope that the good lord is more forgiving than I am!

Anonymous said...

its not rocket science - the private companies are out to make a profit. in order to do that, they pay wages similar to those that a fast food restaurant pays. you get what you pay for and this is especially true for private corrections.

DeathBreath said...

Yes, as a resident of McClennan county, I've been watching the buffoons. Only an ostrich would not know that privitization does not work with adult or juvenile corrections. You got them to build the jail and now you are whining about it? "I am going to take my toys and go home." Did you not know about the privitization foibles in TDCJ? I know the Warden because he used to be my boss in Rosharon, Texas. When politicians get involved in something they know very little about, these things happen. So, suck it up. Stop whining. Be a man!

DeathBreath said...

Furthermore, you don't get quality guards with the lowest salaries often associated with private prison or jail contracts. Duh. What happened in Arizona? Who is accountable? Duh. Corrections and private enterprise do not mix. I speak with twenty-two years of experience within TDJC. So, shut up. It sounds like the McClennan county politicians have been duped by cons in private enterprise. Idiots.