25 National and State Groups Call for the Closure of Dawson State Jail

January 24, 2013

Austin, TX - A letter signed by 25 national and state-level criminal justice, civil liberties, policy, and faith organizations was delivered today to Texas lawmakers calling for the closure of Dawson State Jail in downtown Dallas. The state’s contract with Corrections Corporation of America (CCA), the country’s oldest and largest for-profit private prison corporation, ends on August 31, 2013.

The letter cites the facility’s track record of poor management, highlighting inhumane conditions and recent media accounts of inadequate medical care leading to a rash of preventable deaths. In the last year, reports have surfaced of three incarcerated women who have died from ostensibly preventable causes and a premature infant lived only four days after being delivered without medical personnel. A 2012 health services audit shows that conditions at the facility are non-compliant with the contract.

"Texas should continue its efforts to safely reduce its prison population," said Dr. Ana Yáñez-Correa, Executive Director of the Texas Criminal Justice Coalition. "Closing a facility like the Dawson State Jail would save tax payer dollars that can be better spent on programs that work.”

“Dawson has a well-documented history of neglect of incarcerated people, in many cases resulting in death,” said Kymberlie Quong Charles of Grassroots Leadership, one of the letter’s signatories. “How many more people will have to die before this facility is closed?”

The letter also addresses the decrease in the state jail population from 14,387 in 2006 to 11,921 in 2011, and the 10,000 empty prison beds, which could accommodate people currently incarcerated at Dawson State Jail if the facility were closed.

“Texas' state jail population is steadily declining,” said Matthew Simpson of the ACLU of Texas. “The state is in a good place to close prison facilities, which would lead to cost savings that we need right now rather than subsidizing a private prison corporation.”

Rather than allowing Dawson State Jail – an inefficient facility and frequent violator of its contract with the state – to remain in operation, the letter calls on Texas lawmakers to close the facility as a fiscally responsible measure for addressing the state’s revenue shortfall during this legislative session.

To view the letter with the complete list of signatories click here.