Tuesday, July 08, 2008

Deputies oppose Waco jail privatization plans

In Waco, Mclennan County deputies are raising a fuss to oppose a privatization proposal that could shift most jailers' jobs to a private company. Reported the Tribune-Herald ("McLennan County Sheriff Officers Association leader calls on Sheriff to oppose jail privatization," July 8):

The president of the McLennan County Sheriff Officer’s Association is calling for Sheriff Larry Lynch to put an end this morning to further consideration of privatizing county jail facilities.

County commissioners are set today to open proposals from companies seeking to contract with the county to help ease the continuing jail overcrowding problem.

McLennan County Judge Jim Lewis said requests for proposals were sent out to 14 vendors nationwide, adding that he expects commissioners to defer a decision today on what are sure to be varied and complex bids.

Lewis said it could take county officials, including the county’s attorneys, Herb Bristow and Mike Dixon, three to four weeks to analyze the proposals.

Ken Witt, president of the 60-member sheriff officer’s association, sent an e-mail to Lynch on July 3 urging him to attend today’s meeting and put a halt to more discussions about turning the county’s incarceration duties over to a private company.

In a blog post elsewhere on the paper's website, reporter Tommy Witherspoon added these details:

Sgt. Ricky Armstrong of the McLennan County Sheriff’s Office said that staff at the private Community Education Centers, formerly Civigenics, is not trained to handle many situations that arise, such as riots or prisoners with extreme medical problems.

When CEC has a problem like an uprising, it calls on the county jail to help, Armstrong said.

Armstrong also said the private jail has maintenance issues that don’t get fixed, such as inmates stuffing paper to jam the locks of cell doors.

“It’s all about the money with private facilities,” Armstrong said.

At least 50 uniformed sheriff’s officers and Waco Police Department officers were at the meeting, as well as representatives of the Combined Law Enforcement Agencies of Texas.

McLennan's situation is especially frustrating because their sources of jail overcrowding for the most part are not insoluble, but local officials and the commissioners court for several years have put off less expensive or disruptive solutions.

See more coverage from Texas Prison Bidness, and also prior, related Grits coverage:

UPDATE: From the Waco Tribune Herald, July 9, "County only gets one bid to manage jail system."


Anonymous said...

Privatization is probably the biggest problem in Criminal Justice today.

Yes, they can do it cheaper, but they do it with less training, less legal support and with lots of trouble -- note GEO AKA Whackyhut.

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