An Addendum to ‘Money buys Silence’
By Sarah Boone
“What made you want to know more about Rolling Plains Prison?”
As I stated in my initial comments, a strong moral fiber is inherent in the people who live in Texas’ rolling plains. The atrocities we’re learning about don’t ‘fit’ the way these people treat others. Granted, there are few residents of the area, who are from ‘foreign’ countries, other than farm workers from Mexico and possibly Central America. Perhaps a lack of understanding of and tolerance for other cultures makes ‘locals,’ who are employed at Rolling Plains unable to comprehend what’s wrong with inhumane treatment of people whose homeland is half a world away.
Because of this, I needed to know why the prison is at Haskell, and who owns it; I quickly found a website http://www.publicbonds.org that told a very interesting story. In March 1998, the Haskell City Council, the Haskell County Commissioners, and the Development Corporation of Haskell created the non-profit Rolling Plains Regional Corporation to build a regional jail, youth detention facility and a privately run prison. County voters approved $20 million in bonds for the 48-bed regional jail and 500-bed ‘detention’ center, which opened in early 2002.
That website states that until July of ’02 there were only 35 in the county jail; 57 detainees were sent there that month by the INS. I have been unsuccessful in finding additional information on the number incarcerated at Rolling Plains.
Management & Training Company had the original contract to operate the private facility. The contract stipulated that payments to the operator and payments on the revenue bonds would be made prior to payments on the certificate of obligation. The website further stated that the County failed to renegotiate the order of payments with M&T, and subsequently hired a new operator, Emerald Companies of Louisiana.
A search for that contract has been futile and brings up further questions:
How much is Emerald receiving per month for the ICE detainees?
How much is Haskell County receiving per month from Emerald Companies?
What are the guidelines for handling/treatment of the ICE detainees?
When does the contract with Emerald expire?
What is the current status of the retirement of the revenue bonds and certificates of obligation?
Haskell County is not alone – – there are many more ‘no-growth/no jobs’ counties in our state that have created commissions to build these private prisons. Surely, there must be a better way to keep young people ‘home’ than to build prisons to house people with no criminal record alongside convicted felons from states as far away as Wyoming. Prisons, like war, have become big business pouring millions of dollars into corporations that claim they are ‘state of the art’ operators.
Who monitors these corporations, the suitability of their employees for their positions, and the quality of service they provide?
Sarah Boone is a retired banking executive from the Dallas area who now serves as innkeeper at the Villa Del Rio Bed and Breakfast.