It seemed like a good idea at the time when the west Texas farming town of Littlefield borrowed $10 million and built the Bill Clayton Detention Center in a cotton field south of town in 2000. The charmless steel-and-cement-block buildings ringed with razor wire would provide jobs to keep young people from moving to Lubbock or Dallas.The pullquote:
For eight years, the prison was a good employer. Idaho and Wyoming paid for prisoners to serve time there. But two years ago, Idaho pulled out all of its contract inmates because of a budget crunch at home. There was also a scandal surrounding the suicide of an inmate.
Shortly afterward, the for-profit operator, GEO Group, gave notice that it was leaving, too. One hundred prison jobs disappeared. The facility has been empty ever since.
According to the Bureau of Justice Statistics, the total correctional population in the United States is declining for the first time in three decades. Among the reasons: The crime rate is falling, sentencing alternatives mean fewer felons doing hard time and states everywhere are slashing budgets.That’s right: the crime rate is falling, despite what if-it-bleeds-it-leads TV tells you. And Texas discovered several years ago it couldn’t afford to keep locking up more people. Georgia can’t afford it either, while it’s slashing education budgets.
Corrections Corporation of America, the nation’s largest private prison operator, says the demand for its facilities remains strong, particularly for federal immigration detainees.Of course CCA would say that! They’re busy lobbying for more anti-immigration laws so they can drum up more private prison inmates, paid for with our tax dollars.
Let’s not let Lowndes County be a sucker for this failed industry.
PS: Thanks to Dr. Dennis Marks for the tip.