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More on privatizing the Harris County jail


On Sunday, Grits broke the news that Corrections Corporation of America had submitted a bid to manage the Harris County Jail, citing information given to investors about a county-issued RFP which hadn’t been reported in the local media. Last night, the local Fox TV affiliate confirmed it:

FOX 26 News obtained this news letter from Corrections Corporation of America, a private prison operation firm:

“We are also very excited about the opportunities that are before the industry and for which we feel well positioned. We’re awaiting a decision from Arizona on its 5,000 bed request for proposal as well as a managed-only opportunity for approximately 9,000 beds in Harris County, Texas.”

County officials confirm private talks are underway to consider privatizing the county jail.

That’s virtually the same wording cited in the Grits post from a analyst.

You can see the RFP here. None of this is exactly news – the item came up on the Court agenda back in April (page 21) and was duly reported and blogged about at the time. The Court authorized a study of the possibilities of privatization, which as far as I know is still a work in progress. So, other than knowing that someone did in fact submit an RFP, there’s not much new here. Privatization is still a bad idea for the jail – you’ll note it was Steve Radack who was pushing this, which should tell you all you need to know – and we should keep an eye on this, but it’s not at the action stage just yet.

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  1. robert kane says:

    I’m not a fan of privatized jails nor CCA…. when a business gets involved in incarceration the incentive for reforming prisoners goes away even further than it already is.

    They are like a hotel business, the more occupied bunks, the more they make. I can’t prove anything concrete, but if you look at their political donations to judges in the past…it just doesn’t feel right to me.

    A lot of people think that private business can do a lot of things better than government…. like make huge profits off of the taxpayers, no

  2. joshua bullard says:

    I think its fair to say that in real life and real time commisioner steve radack is doing what the people of Harris county elected him to do,which is to “view all the options that are available and put them on the table” for discussion,i must say in my former life i would have rejected the notion of a private jail with out review-but not today,today i would bring in the private sector and allow them to put all the cards on the table so that there would be transparency for the gen- public to review and at the end of the day-i would put it to a vote with in commisioners court-lets all be honest-ive known adrian garcia for years,officially,alot of inmates have died and been killed in that jail since he has taken office and that concerns the hell out of me,and i dont give a damn if your republican or democrat, when there lifting bodys out of the Harris county jail to transport to the funeral homes and thousands of inmates are being jammed and crammmed into small cage like cells for 7 to 8 hrs for court,you better sure as fire , be looking at alternatives for theses inmates safety,

    i support steve radack’s concern and effort
    to protect and provide a more effecient jail,
    that is so badly needed,after all,thats why
    weve elected him over and over again for the
    last twenty years.
    the way it is-joshua ben bullard 2011

  3. robert kane says:

    Joshua, read this piece

    nothing good comes of this for the regular citizens….for political hacks that want a job outside of the public sector later (or a friend or family member).

    CCA has a number of lawsuits for human rights violations and other bad things that happen under their watch, it’s not all peaches & cream.

    Since they are a private business, there is LESS transparency.

  4. robert kane says:

    A few others to peruse :

    – The Corrections Corporation of America settled two lawsuits concerning abuse of inmates at the Idaho prison it manages. And yet, no elected officials are talking about ending the state’s $30 million annual commitment to CCA. Maybe that’s because CCA has spread thousands in campaign contributions around to key lawmakers, including Otter. Or perhaps it has something to do with the recruitment and hiring of Otter’s former chief of staff, Jason Kreizenbeck, by CCA’s Boise lobbyist, Skip Smyser, whose wife, Melinda, serves in the state Senate.

  5. Charles, I see it a little differently. Before now, privatization was quite literally all talk. Now we learn there’s an RFP, which means a formal, official process has begun. All the county must do is accept a bid and bada bing bada boom, it’s done. The RFP is the “action stage.” Before, there was nothing to vote on. This sets up an official decision point in the near future and a pending privatization vote.

  6. Scott, I hear what you’re saying, but it’s still not really news, in the sense that this was on the Court’s agenda from April 21:

    “Request for authorization for the County Attorney’s Office and the Purchasing Agent to prepare the necessary documents to seek proposals for the privatization of the Harris County jails.”

    In other words, the RFP was part of the public record at the time. I agree that this makes it more than a theoretical concern, but it’s not a new concern.

  7. Zavala says:

    When you have literally thousands of inmates, many who are in poor health and homeless, some will die. How many are actually from abuse? as far being contained in small cells, what actions caused that. It is all political and all the citizens, including the inmates, are paying for it. It was not by chance that a surprise visit by state inspectors happened 2 days before the budget was voted on, causing the Commissioner’s Court to approve the Sheriff’s hiring proposal. It is not practical to hire underpaid, untrained private companies who have never run a facility with half of the inamtes as Harris County. Read about the number of lawsuits, from hiring sex offenders to supervise juveniles to slow response times in inmate altercations. The training that Harris County does is extensive compared to these small private companies. Research alone shows the taxpayers will lose so much money laying off over 1200 people when tax money begins to pay unemployment, medicate and over 1200 different retirements. Non of this makes sense. And why, for a political war. How safe will the streets be when they move inexperience deputies from the jail and move them to patrol. basic reasoning will tell that when you pay people less money the quaility of work will decrease and training. In this situation, safety for and inmates will suffer. Never has anyone in the counrty attempted converting a facility this big. You will pay out more than the savings in lawsuits. How economical is that?

  8. Alice Melendez says:

    I’m with Grits. Once the RFP is out, and we know that several proposals have been submitted, then we are at the vote to accept stage, all with zero public awareness or input of a potentially huge deal. Whether or not this is old news, it seems like now (or yesterday) is the time to start paying attention.

    Unless there is public outcry, it could be so easy for the commissioners to talk about shrinking government and saving the taxpayer money and go forward.

    Anyone who has looked into the issue deeply realizes that if Harris County really wants to lower costs, it could always consider reducing the number of pretrial inmates and the number of people incarcerated for minor possession offenses. Even in the current situation, Garcia has been steadily lowering costs. And in Arizona, data shows that private prisons actually cost more . We all need to stand up against this crony capitalist move.