Thursday, December 18, 2008

Press Release: T. Don Hutto Contract Risky Business

12/18/2008   Press Release:  T Don Hutto Contract Risky Business

Opponents to the T Don Hutto prison for non-criminal immigrant families and children located in Taylor, Texas, have consistently protested its basic inhumane conception and operation.  The United States’ Congress has ordered that non-criminal immigrant families awaiting disposition of requests for citizenship applications and/or asylum be detained in the “least restrictive” manner possible.  T Don Hutto is a former medium-security prison that fails this standard, they maintain.  Additionally, the lack of any governmental oversight for T Don Hutto has lead to documented abuse, including the sexual assault of a female prisoner by her guard, in the presence of her young child. 

With the dramatic decline in the American economy, and a major change in the political climate, opponents point out that Williamson County Commissioners Court (WCCC) should refuse to renew its contractual role in that operation on the grounds that it is a risky business deal.  The prison is owned and run by Corrections Corporation of America (CCA), funded (at a cost of nearly $3 million per month) by Immigration and Custom Enforcement (ICE), on a pass-through contract with WCCC, in which the County is paid $1 per day per prisoner for its role as “contract administrator,” potentially amounting to around $15,000 per month at capacity.


Opponents contend that CCA is no longer a strong business partner, given the almost certain decline of funds available for this costly approach; effective alternatives are available at a fraction of the cost of running T Don Hutto. Growth of immigrant detention had previously been assumed to assure CCA a strong financial future; that assumption, according to opponents, no longer is reliable.  Recent, dramatic, reduction in stock value and the uncertainty of future profits raises the question of capacity to perform on the contract at a responsible level, they say.


ICE’s future, they point out, is questionable as well, with some speculation that it may even be moved from the Department of Homeland Security to the Commerce Department.  Incoming President Obama has pledged to deal effectively with the lack of comprehensive immigration reform in his first year in office, indicting that the past policy of detention during processing will not comprise the major strategy.  In any case, it is not unlikely that ICE will have a different model of operation in the near future.


Therefore, they argue, the other two parties to this proposed renewal contract are not the same strong business partners in place at the time of the original agreement, with  only WCCC’s strength remaining as it was at that time of the original agreement. 


Adding to that imbalance, monitoring  of the facility ordered under Judge Sparks’ settlement agreement as a result of lawsuits brought against the operation will lapse in August of 2009, leaving a void in that essential function.  This lack, say the opponents, increases  the risk that conditions that led to that lawsuit will re-emerge.  This, in their view, increases the possibility of greater responsibility and legal risk to WCCC and County taxpayers.


T Don Hutto opponent MaryEllen Kersch contends that “under any realistic assessment of  the business risks this renewal poses to the citizens of Williamson County, WCCC should decline to partner in the renewal of the contract.”

WCCC is scheduled to vote on the renewal at its December 23rd meeting at the courthouse in Georgetown.

For more information, please contact  MaryEllen Kersch, 512-863-7174.