By Frank Knaack (Originally posted on Texas Prison Bid’ness)
Associate Director of Public Policy and Advocacy
Last week we wrote about Liberty County’s battle to reign in its excessive county jail budget (A line in the sand in Liberty County). Its solution makes sense – don’t lock up individuals accused of low-level, non-violent crimes. The community would save millions of dollars as long as it stood up to the for-profit prison industry’s attempts to undercut the savings by raising the rate to house inmates.
On Monday, according to The Cleveland Advocate (“County extends jail contract for another 60 days,” 2/7/12), the county commissioners court voted to extend the for-profit jail contract for another 60 days. County Judge Craig McNair said the 60 day extension will give the commissioners more time to gather information. Liberty County Precinct 1 Commissioner Todd Fontenot agrees that it is time for the extensions to stop. As the The Cleveland Advocate reported, “Fontenot said that he believes that the best decision would be to have the sheriff directly operate the county jail. … Fontenot reasoned that the private company marks up the cost of operations to generate a profit and that if the county took the facility over, they would not have to pay the increased cost but use it for the needed personnel.”
Actively trying to undermine smart on crime reforms is nothing new to the for-profit prison industry. Liberty County now has the opportunity to send a clear signal to the for-profit prisons industry – taxpayers care about the safety and well-being of their communities and have no interest in ensuring profit for the for-profit prison industry.