This week’s Humpday Hall of Shame spotlight is on a Willacy County, Texas, private prison debacle that dates back to 2005. It resurfaced last Friday when the Valley Morning Star reported that the county will mediate with a construction company it sued for alleged poor workmanship at three county correctional facilities. The subsequent repairs cost the county $620,000, according to County Judge John F. Gonzales.
The county filed the lawsuit March 7 against Houston-based Hale-Mills Construction, for poor construction on the $7.5-million Willacy County Jail, a $14.5-million county-funded private prison used by the U.S. Marshals' Service, as well as a $111.5-million county-funded private prison comprised of tent-shaped structures.
Willacy County alleges that Hale-Mills’ poor construction practices resulted in roof leaks at the Willacy County Adult Correctional Center, a private prison operated by Management & Training Corporation and contracted by U.S. Marshals’ Service, which led the Marshals' Service to threaten to remove their detainees from the facility in 2011. Gonzales claimed, “We had all these structural problems because they cut corners.”
Unfortunately for Willacy County, this isn’t the first time they’ve had unfavorable dealings with prison contractors. Back in 2005, two former Willacy County Commissioners pleaded guilty to accepting bribes in exchange for their votes on federal prison contracts.
According to media reports, the two commissioners “waived indictment and admitted accepting more than $10,000 each from companies competing for work on the Willacy County Adult Correctional Center” — the same private prison constructed by Hale Mills and now inundated with structural problems.
Yet again, Willacy County is paying the price for their private prison, and the saga continues.