Thursday, September 3, 2009

Williamson County Votes to End Contract with CCA

Not much a victory, since they will fill the remaining beds with women, but at least children will not be detained there anymore, and at least Judge Gattis seems more aware of the issues than in the past. Repetition works!

County ends contract with CCA

By Philip Jankowski

Williamson County Commissioners voted Tuesday to end their contract with Corrections Corporation of America, the contracted operator of the T. Don Hutto Residential Center for illegal immigrants.

County Judge Dan Gattis said the move was more of a “housekeeping” procedure than an indication the county no longer wishes to contract with CCA to operate the facility. Gattis said Monday the county is waiting for Immigrations Customs Enforcement to draft a new contract so the facility can continue to hold women.
In early August the Obama administration ordered children and families at the facility to be placed in a Pennsylvania facility deemed more suitable for children. Families were expected to be moved in a matter of weeks and to be fully removed within months.

The Taylor facility’s population of families had fallen in recent years. To help fill the 512-bed facility, ICE began housing female detainees at the facility. By mid 2008, an entire wing of the former medium security prison was devoted to housing women.

Without that contract in hand, Gattis said he felt a need to terminate the county’s contract with CCA just in case the ICE contract does not come through.

“To protect ourselves we’re giving notification to CCA,” Gattis said. “It’s one of those legal things we felt we needed to do because the funds come from the county.”

CCA’s contract with Williamson County will expire at the end of this year. Gattis said he hopes to have a new contract with ICE before that, but if not, CCA will be forced to cease operations at the south Taylor facility.

“That’s a concern of mine,” Gattis said of the possibility of losing CCA jobs. “I hope (ICE) will come down with a proposal and we can keep that facility open.”

The T. Don Hutto facility is one of the largest and best paying employers of unskilled labor in Taylor. Guards can make upwards of $17 an hour, according to 2008’s contracted rates.

Gattis said he expects a certain amount of fervor to persist, though, in spite of children no longer being housed at T. Don Hutto, it will be greatly diminished.

“The majority of that group was upset because children were locked up, so that pressure will go away, but there’s a certain group that doesn’t believe in locking up people who are the in county illegally,” he said.