Texas has the largest prison population in the nation and is home to more for-profit prisons than any other state. Lock-up rates are also on a steady decline in our state, creating an opportune moment to permanently shift the tide on incarceration trends in Texas. We anchor a statewide coalition that uses grassroots organizing, legislative advocacy, and public education to strategically target private prisons for closure. During the 2013 legislative session we successfully closed two private prisons in Texas!
Texas Prison Closures Campaign
We release this three-part series now to harken back to our own roots in the struggle(s) for true justice, and to spotlight the re-emergence of a flourishing prison divestment movement in which students, again, are playing a central role. It is in this context that Grassroots Leadership and our long-time partner Enlace, are anchoring major national actions against CCA and the GEO Group, the country’s largest private prison companies, in May 2015. We hope that this series will elucidate the historic power that individuals have had on challenging the for-profit prison industry, and to compel participation in the exciting events on the horizon.
- April 19-25, National Week of Engagement for Prison Divestment
- May 2, Dilley Texas: Close Dilley, #EndFamilyDetention
- May 3-5, Boca Raton, Florida: We Want Freedom, Breaking the Chains and Transforming Communities
Kymberlie's Story, Earlham College, Class of ‘02Read more about Grassroots Leadership's roots in prison divestment, Part I: Kymberlie's story
When the U.S. Bureau of Prisons canceled its contract with Willacy County last week, it explained that the federal inmate population was down, and it didn't need additional beds.
Criminal justice trends ebb and flow. Bob Libal tracks the corrections industry for the Austin activist group Grassroots Leadership. He says where once it was easy to find inmates for a private prison, Willacy County will likely learn now it's tougher to fill prison beds.
"Around the state we have seen several communities that have had their private prisons fail and they're left holding the bag when it comes to the debt that they floated," he says. Read more about Closure Of Private Prison Forces Texas County To Plug Financial Gap
In the March 2nd edition of the San Antonio Express News, an article was printed about the riot that happened at the privately run Willacy County Correctional Center in Raymondville, Texas. Management Training Company (MTC) was contracted by the federal government to run this facility. Read more about Letter To The Editor: ACA accreditation for Texas prisons doesn't mean much
Our friend Jorge Antonio Renaud, from the Center for Community Change, reflects on prison reform.
"The Willacy CCC protest was actually the third major revolt reported at a Criminal Alien Requirement (CAR) facility since 2008, points out Bob Libal, executive director of Grassroots Leadership, an organization that advocates against for-profit incarceration. Grassroots Leadership has long chronicled the all-too-often violent history of privately-run prisons, but few in the public or government actually listen to the organizations that scramble to monitor and report on overall prison conditions. Living environments protested by Willacy prisoners—like cramped living quarters, sewage-contaminated showers and drinking water, vermin- and bug-infested food, and solitary confinement misused as punishment merely for speaking out—had already been described as problems in privately-run immigrant prisons by a 2014 ACLU report, to little effect." Read more about Prison reform is making life inside prison worse, not better
Austin, TX (February 23, 2015) -- Private prison corporations Corrections Corporation of America (CCA) and the GEO Group have released their fourth quarter 2014 earnings. Both companies are predicting more contracts with state and federal agencies in 2015, and both companies bet on increased profits from the detention of immigrants - including immigrant women and children - and re-entry services to boost their bottom line. . Read more about Private Prison Corporations Bet on Increased Profits from Immigrant Detention and Re-entry Contracts
Lauren Johnson is a native Austinite and currently serves as a board member with Conspire Theatre. Conspire does theater and creative writing with women who have been impacted by incarceration. Lauren studied business communications with the University of Phoenix and is an active member of the X-Offenders Council, as well as the Travis County Reentry Planning Council. She is committed to being a voice for the people who don't know that they have one.
Lauren can be reached at LJohnson@GrassrootsLeadership.orgRead more about Welcome Lauren Johnson!
We have a big challenge at Grassroots Leadership. There is a lot of work to be done, and fighting a billion dollar for-profit prison industry is not easy work. But there is also much to be thankful for. The hard work of Grassroots Leadership staff, volunteers, and allies is really helping change the world to make it more just. Here are a few of the things that we at Grassroots Leadership are thankful for this year.
1. Organizing Wins #ImmigrationAction, & Those Who Continue to Push for #Not1More Deportation! Read more about 9 Reasons Grassroots Leadership is Thankful Today!
Jailing at the rates that Texas does has had devastating social and economic effects for those incarcerated, who are disproportionately poor people of color, and their communities. But our addiction to incarceration affects us all. Texas taxpayers foot the bill at a cost of nearly $3 billion annually spent on state jails and prisons, money that could otherwise be invested in education and other front-end programs that give people opportunities to avoid interaction with the criminal justice system. Read more about Commentary: Closing state jails should be on Legislature’s agenda
The Bill Clayton Detention Center has been the subject of a long saga that has been draining the tiny West Texas town of Littlefield of revenue for years. The problems in Littlefield have been persistent since building the jail for $10 million in 2000. Littlefield has tried to auction off the facility and fill it with prisoners from New Mexico, California, and even immigrant children. None of these plans have panned out as the town now looks toward a civil commitment contract with Correct Care Solutions. Correct Care Solutions, formerly known as GEO Care, is a spin-off corporation of GEO Group, the same corporation that operated the facility until 2009.
If approved, this facility would house approximately 200 individuals convicted of multiple violent sexual offenses-but who have already completed their prison sentences-beginning as early as November 2014. In this case, the term civil commitment refers to the process of continued monitoring, surveillance, and treatment of individuals labeled as the “worst of the worst” in the world of those convicted of violent sexual offenses. In Texas, individuals can be mandated for civil commitment when they have been convicted of more than one sexually violent offense and have been deemed as suffering from a behavioral abnormality. Again, those who become civilly committed have completed their prison sentences but are mandated to receive continued treatment and active monitoring upon release.Read more about GEO Group subsidiary, Correct Care Solutions, bids to re-purpose the Bill Clayton Detention Center as a new civil commitment facility