Momentum is Building to Close Dawson State Jail

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For years, talk has been swirling of closing Dawson State Jail. The city of Dallas pushed for it five years ago, wanting to develop the property at the foot of the levee at Commerce Street into something more in keeping with its vision for river corridor.

State Senator John Whitmire, D-Houston, explained the bill he filed last month seeking to close the facility as a cost-cutting measure justified by a one-year, 4,000-inmate drop in the state's prison population.

There's another reason, too. Dawson seems to be a poorly run, miserable place, and that goes beyond its one-star Yelp review. The Corrections Corporation of America, which runs the facility, has been blamed for inadequate medical care that has allegedly contributed to the deaths of multiple inmates.

That's prompted some 25 state and national civil and prisoners' rights groups to add their voice to the debate. They sent a joint letter to lawmakers on Thursday urging them to shut down the jail because of its history of poor management and inhumane conditions, according to the Texas Tribune.

"Recent media accounts of inadequate medical care and a rash of preventable deaths at the Dawson State Jail illustrate problems at this facility," the letter says.

CCA rebuts the organizations' assertion, contending that it provides "safe inmate housing and quality rehabilitation programming at a cost savings to Texas taxpayers."

"It's unfortunate that these organizations are so closed-minded when it comes to facts and perspectives that might challenge their political agendas," company spokesman Steve Owen told the Tribune.

There's a more fundamental debate to be had here. Ana Yanez-Correa, director of the Texas Criminal Justice Coalition and one of the letter's signers, made the argument to the Morning News that privately run prisons in general are antithetical to the goal of reducing crime "because the [companies] lose money when people are not committing crimes."

That's a philosophical question and not one the Legislature seems keen to wrestle with. But if Yanez-Correa and her peers can make a convincing argument that closure of Dawson can help the state's bottom line, then their proposal has a chance.

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5 comments
penny
penny

inmates should have to work ..outside jobs for the ones who qualify.they should be in classes of some kind or working .we need to try to rehab the ones who can be or want to ..only lip service is done @  this time.dont let them lay around all day .also the people who work there have problems for sure.they think they hold inmates future in there hands which they do .they show no human respect or kindness to visitors or inmates.did any of them go to school ?? look at most of them  more inmates look cleaner and have better manners than employees.

roadsidecouch
roadsidecouch

All those rich folk that bought floodplain land and the surrounding land have to bribe and cajole the powers that be to get this jail closed so they can proceed with their yuppy paradise projects.  Buffy and Chad will not live next to a jail.

unclescrappy
unclescrappy

Prison should be miserable. But they must be Humane. When we as a society assume the CARE & CUSTODY of our citizens because we have found them guilty of a criminal offense. We MUST provide safe housing, adequate healthcare & meals to them. Unfortunately these things cost MONEY. Something taxpayers dont understand. Want Zero Tolerance & get tough on crime. Well there is a price & it costs MONEY. Sorry but the old adage "You cant always have your cake & eat it too" applies.

We should NOT be contracting out prison functions to private companies. We might consider allowing them to provide workers to a certain percentage. But the state of Texas must stay in control.

When we allow our prisons to become death traps & torture like facilities, we as a society are just like those we have opposed in the past. Russia, Nazi Germany etc.

Ahoy
Ahoy

@roadsidecouch Well, Buffy and Chad will still be next to Lew Sterrett.

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