Friday, January 6, 2012

Confusion reigns over private jail contract

Corporation pays rent on jail with no inmates
Sheriff paid to write reports he doesn't write

Waco – Precinct 1 Commissioner Kelly Snell said it best.

“They got it kind of messed up in the news. We didn't vote to extend the contract (with private contractor CEC) on the Jack Harwell Detention Center. We voted to extend the contract on the downtown jail at the courthouse.

“That way, we can keep on getting paid.

Ironically, McLennan County is getting paid a monthly fee by CEC, Inc., not to house prisoners of the Federal Bureau of Prisons, but toThey moved all the Federal Bureau of Prisons inmates from there to the Jack Harwell faciity so they would have someone to jail in the new jail at $45 per day.

It's got to be the Kingfish, the Grand Daddy of all sweetheart contracts ever conceived or heard tell of in the history of courthouse politics.

Knowledgeable observers are shocked by the fact that other than daily jail census reports – a tallly of the numbers of prisoners held by classification – there are no written records about the state of affairs as it exists between the county government and the private contractor.

In fact, according to Mr. Snell, he and other members of the Court have been unable to obtain no copies of the contract that governs the operation – or non-operation – of the downtown jail or the Jack Harwell Detention Center on Highway 6.Recently, the Justice Department's Immigration and Customs Enforcement division moved 80 female prisoners from the Jack Harwell lockup to another privately operated facility at Taylor, Texas, the Don T. Hutto Detention Center operated by Corrections Corporation of America.

In response to a public information act request, Lynne Lockwood, an administrative assistant to County Judge Jim Lewis, wrote, “Scott – the explanation is simply that there is nothing in writing about it that I find/am aware of.”

A private citizen and former probation officer, Robert Aguilar, came forward to address the Court, saying that the women were forced to endure conditions involving raw sewage in the floor of the cells – to walk in it and smell it while trying to get some sleep at night.

Nevertheless, there are no written records concerning that, either.

In response to a public information act request by R.S. Gates, Judge Jim Lewis' Administrative Assistant Lynne Lockwood wrote, “Scott – it is my understanding from the below open records request that you are requesting copies of written information / documentation related to the operation of the Jack Harwell facility, specifically limited to communications / correspondence from the Bureau of Prisons, CEC management or county officials during calendar year 2011 thru date of request, 12/27/11 - which would pertain to the housing of ICE inmates, complaints received from ICE inmates, including those regarding medical treatment. A review of the records available in the County Judges office does not find any documents that appear to be responsive to that – other than possibly the daily jail population numbers for the Harwell facility provided to our office each day by CEC. (I really didn’t feel your request was intended to cover such records – but if it does, I would like to advise that our office has complied (sic) an excel spread sheet made from each daily log sheet which tracks the daily jail population at the Harwell facility for all categories of inmates during calendar year 2011.”

The judge told members of the court that he had “visited” with CEC officials about the problems, but had no knowledge of the sewage allegations. He said he would be “visiting” with them in the near future to lear all he may regarding the problems.

When a news reporter from a daily outlet visited with the judge to learn more about the situation, he reportedly said, “I'm not going to talk with you about anything on the jail. Are you going to leave, or do I have to escort you out?”

Curiously, Sheriff Larry Lynch receives a monthly stipend of $1,000 to monitor the operations of the lockups managed and maintained by CEC, a New Jersey corporation.

In an earlier series of public information act requests, R.S. Gates queried Chief Deputy Randy Plemons about allegations of neglect regarding the vacant downtown jail and the Jack Harwell jail.

“There are no reports,” Mr. Plemons responded.

Does Sheriff Larry Lynch, in fact, receive a salary supplement of $12,000 per year for monitoring and administrative duties supervising a contract to house prisoners of McLennan County at a privately operated facility?

The matter is one of some confusion because the notes in the salary budget schedule for FY 2011 say that the payments of $1,000 per month are contingent upon receipt of funds paid the contractor for housing of federal prisoners at the downtown jail annex.

There are no prisoners housed in that jail.

The notations for the salary budget schedule for 2012 say that “The Sheriff receives a salary supplement of $12,000 for monitoring and administrative responsibilities relating to county detention facilities operated for the county by a contractor.”

1 comment:

  1. Maybe Plemons didn't receive the complaints of neglect until an hour after the prisoners had been removed by ICE. That seems to be the norm when he "communicates" with federal law enforcement.

    I guess we won't get an answer out of Plemons on the supplement since those budgets can be tricky things to him.