Private prison influence on Texas lawmakers includes lobbying, campaign cash, and ideas for new laws

April 21, 2017

State lawmaker admits family detention licensing bill came from a private prison lobbyist as a new report shows prison companies are spending big to secure child care licenses for family jails

(AUSTIN, Texas) — A Texas state lawmaker has admitted that a bill he introduced to license family detention centers as child care facilities was introduced at the behest of a private prison corporation, according to a report in the Associated Press.  Yesterday, the Associated Press reported that the bill came directly from a private prison company that stands to benefit from the bills’ passage:

A state representative who introduced the measure acknowledged that the proposed legislation came directly from GEO Group, the nation's second-largest private prison company, which operates Karnes.

"I've known the lady who's their lobbyist for a long time ...That's where the legislation came from," said state Rep. John Raney, a Republican from the rural town of Bryan. "We don't make things up. People bring things to us and ask us to help."

The revelation from the AP comes a day before a report released today by Texans for Public Justice demonstrating that private prison companies are paying lobbyists $480,000 to advocate for them in front of Texas lawmakers as they consider the proposal to license lucrative immigration jails.

The effort to pass legislation to license the family detention centers as child care facilities comes after a successful lawsuit from Grassroots Leadership and women detained with their children at the Karnes and Dilley detention camps.  In December, Judge Karin Crump of the 250th District Court invalidated the Texas regulation that allowed for the licensure of Karnes and Dilley. According to the court, the regulation allowing for licensing of family detention centers "contravenes Texas Human Resources Code § 42.002(4) and runs counter to the general objectives of the Texas Human Resources Code."   

“The revelation that private prison corporations are pushing laws to license family detention camps as child care centers should surprise no one,” said Bob Libal, executive director of Grassroots Leadership.  “The push to license the family jails has never been about protecting children, but about protecting the profits of private prison companies.  The state should stand up to these interests and for the rights of children and reject these unjust bills.”

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Grassroots Leadership is an Austin, Texas-based national organization that works for a more just society where prison profiteering, mass incarceration, deportation and criminalization are things of the past.

Contact: 

Cristina Parker, cparker@grassrootsleadership.org, 512-499-8111