Prisonpath has posted several articles about the continuing controversy about private prisons vs. public prisons. In our last article on this crucial issue, major problems at Lake Erie Correctional Institution were reported consisting of inadequate staffing, poor medical care, and deplorable living conditions. Corrections Corporation of America took over the 1,700-bed prison in 2011. By 2012, Ohio state audits revealed unsafe conditions at the prison. In 2013, the Texas correctional officer’s union expressed its opinion about the management of private prisons in their state. The union reported unsafe conditions and mismanagement at private prisons in Texas as discussed in the following article.
By Mike Ward of the American-Statesman Staff – February 27, 2013
A labor union representing state prison guards called this morning for the state to close three privately run prisons, instead of the two targeted by Senate leaders.
Lance Lowry, president of the Huntsville-based local of the American Federation of State County Municipal Employees, also called for the state to lease or buy an empty 1,100-bed lockup in Jones County. It was built three years ago to house state convicts, but prison officials canceled the deal, and the facility has stood vacant.
Lowry said lawmakers should close the Mineral Wells Pre-Parole Transfer Facility, the Dawson State Jail and the Lindsey State Jail in Jacksboro. Inmates from the Jacksboro lockup could be moved to Jones County, he said.
All three privately run lockups proposed for closure are operated by Corrections Corporation of America.
Cost savings from closing the Mineral Wells and Dallas lockups has been estimated at about $90 million. The cost of buying the Jones County lockup would be around $25 million, although a lease would be less, legislative leaders said last week.
In a statement, Lowry criticized poor management and abuses at the three private prisons. A spokesman for Corrections Corporations of America could not immediately be reached for comment.
“A state run prison would result in higher paying jobs than a private prison could bring to the area,” Lowry said in the statement. With state run facilities being safer, Lowry says “inmates have a greater chance of reforming. Dangerous private prisons breed gang activity and result in higher cost to the taxpayers in the long run.
“Publicly operated facilities are better managed and offer a greater degree of safety to the communities around them. Private prison companies make their profit by filling beds and have been known to encourage incarceration. Texas is currently becoming a national model on reform and savings to the taxpayers by getting smart on crime. With private prison growth in Texas coming to a stop four years ago, Texas has seen recidivism go down.”
No word yet from officials at the Texas Department of Criminal Justice on the union proposal.