New Report from Texas Coalition Calls for Closure of Dawson State Jail

February 25, 2013

Austin, TX - A coalition of groups representing criminal justice, civil liberties, policy, and faith organizations released a report today, detailing abuses at the privately-run Dawson State Jail in Dallas and outlining further rationale for closing the facility.  The report is co-authored by Texas-based Grassroots Leadership and The Sentencing Project, a national organization working for a fair and effective U.S. criminal justice system.  The full report is available online

“Dawson has a well-documented history of neglect of incarcerated people, in many cases resulting in death,” said Kymberlie Quong Charles of Grassroots Leadership.  “Unfortunately, these problems are common in prisons run for profit by corporations.  How many more people will have to die before this facility is closed?”

The report’s recommendations urge lawmakers not to renew the state’s contract for the Dawson State Jail, a privately operated state jail in downtown Dallas.  The prison is operated by Corrections Corporation of America, the country’s oldest and largest for-profit private prison corporation. The report calls on the state to zero out funding for the facility and dedicate resources towards more robust forms of community supervision for those convicted of state jail felonies to further reduce the state jail population. 

Michelle Smith, Civil Rights Fellow at the Texas Civil Rights Project said, “We know Dawson State Jail has had at least five deaths in the last five years and obviously things need to change. The inmates there are not getting adequate medical attention, because if they were, they wouldn't be dying. If things don’t change, CCA and TDCJ will face more lawsuits about the unconstitutional conditions there.”

The report notes that the state jail population has declined by 15 percent from 2007 to 2012.  Senator John Whitmire, Chair of the Senate Criminal Justice Committee, has recently argued in favor of closing Dawson State Jail and other contract beds noting that TDCJ has up to 10,000 empty beds in the state prison system.

"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.”

The coalition also announced a March 7th vigil at the Dawson State Jail in Dallas on the eve of International Women’s Day.  View the full report online and list of quotes from coalition members.

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Contact: 

Kymberlie Quong Charles, 512-499-8111, kquongcharles@grassrootsleadership.org