Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Influence of private jail contractor is vast

Waco – The recent election of an outsider as the Republican Party's candidate for Sheriff was a definite referendum on jail operations by a private corporation, CEC, Inc.

Key decision makers in the conservative electorate are obviously unhappy. They defeated the election bid of Chief Deputy Randy Plemons, the hand-picked candidate endorsed by incumbent Sheriff Larry Lynch.

It's all about the Benjamins, according to a confidential source who works inside the County Jail.

Now comes the real referendum, where the rubber meets the road. Will the McLennan County Commissioners Court renew the contract of CEC, Inc., to operate two of the county's jails, or not?

Veteran Deputy U.S. Marshal Parnell McNamara said the magic words. He told voters he would like to take back operation of the county's lockups by Sheriff's Department employees and eschew the management techniques of the New Jersey corporation. He said he is morally opposed to making a profit on the demise of another individual.

He also said during a 30-year career as a court officer for the Western District of Texas, he never thought the security arrangements of privately operated lockups matches those of jails and prisons operated by public agencies.

Marshal McNamara defeated Deputy Randy Plemons by a huge margin.

According to a confidential source, the McLennan County Sheriff's Office adopted the methods of classifying prisoners formulated by CEC, Inc., in December, after the private corporation began operations at the Jack Harwell Detention Center.

With more than a decade of experience working at the County Jail next door, the individual, who refused to be identified for this report, observed that the key is to make sure that most prisoners qualify for transfer to the medium security facility once they have been booked.

Records and booking personnel often neglect to book incoming prisoners who arrive during the day shift - until a later time.

With four counts per day, showing a prisoner present and either waiting for arraignment, or having been charged by a magistrate for a specific offense, can greatly affect the overall book keeping scheme in a for-profit corporate environment.

When the Sheriff's Office adopted the new classification scheme, they changed the population density in the County Jail's maximum security units, A and B wings, from a former arrangement of 24 men housed in each of 8 tanks to one of 8 men occupying 10 tanks.

The immediate effect was to reduce loud, aggressive shouting and threats, lowering the level of tension to a more manageable proportion.

On the other hand, the move increased the risk factor for weaker and less aggressive prisoners to suffer attacks because A and B wings, which are older and less mordern, are situated on long, U-shaped hallways with video surveillance only. There are many blind spots. Corrections officers sometimes find themselves unable to leave their posts and walk the corridors to see for themselves the areas closed circuit video monitors cannot picture for periods of an hour or longer.

The potential for inmate on inmate violence is much greater in these units than in the more modern and newer C and D units, which are designed on a modular floor plan with the control room situated near the middle of the room and commanding a view of the entire area at a glance.

The ultimate tool for control is a new version of the tried and true straight jacket. It's a velcro dress used to cool off violent and aggressive inmates who either carry out attacks, or threaten to do so.

“It gets their attention – every time,” the source said. “You just mention it. No problem.”

Then there is the classification of new arrivals.

Many people are jailed simply because they are mentally ill. The Texas Legislature slashed budgets for care of people of that type by huge margins during its latest session. They said the voters demanded the move.

When inmates arrive in the sallyport, “You can tell if someone is not right.”

It makes no difference under the new system formulated by CEC. All arrivals must be placed in the general population until they are evaluated by mental health professionals or medical staff.

“We get people who eat their own feces – no joke,” the source said. “Sometimes, they drink the water out of the commode.”

In the case of violent or aggressive inmates, even if they have a long history of attacking other prisoners, have been charged and convicted for assaultive offenses that would automatically place them in maximum security status or administrative segregation, or utter threats and make attacks on the spot, they must first be re-classified before they are ruled ineligible to stay in the medium security lockup operated by CEC.

1 comment:

  1. Amazing how the truth slowly begins to surface not that the old administration has lost it's power and the support of the people they have taken advantage of for so long.