This week the Travis County Sheriff’s Office is hosting the inaugural “Vision Summit: Looking Toward the Future of Re-entry”, right here in Grassroots Leadership’s backyard in Austin, Texas. The gathering’s intention of bringing together the re-entry advocacy and service delivery community in order to better collaborate and communicate toward the goals of reducing recidivism and improving re-entry programs is one we appreciate. It acknowledges the need, both locally and nationally, for reforms that effectively shift people out of confinement and back into society, and across the country there is a growing number of innovative and creative solutions doing just that. The Vision Summit is a promising convening where the opportunity for cross-fertilization of ideas and experience will enhance the growing trends in rehabilitation and re-entry.
However, we question the Vision Summit’s wisdom in inviting private prison corporation GEO Group representatives to deliver a workshop on evidence-based practice and re-entry. Surely the Travis County Sheriff’s Office and its conference partners are well aware of the presence of private prisons and mental health facilities operated by private prison companies in Texas. Not only is there a private facility in virtually every corner of this state, but there have also been highly publicized scandals at several of them, including those operated by GEO Group, whose reputation in Texas has been littered with repeated escapes, contraband smuggling by guards, abuse, neglect, and even death. The company’s national rap sheet reveals more of the same.[node:read-more:link]