Stop Funneling Tax Money to Profit for Children's Prisons: An Appeal

By Peter Dana

I arrived at the Williamson County Commissioner’s Court at 9:30AM and signed up to speak on Item#61 (T. Don Hutto contracts). Mary Ellen Kersch had also signed up to speak on #61. All the others that I saw had signed up to speak on the landfill issue.

At the start of the meeting, Judge Gattis took several items off the agenda but not #61. He asked for citizen input on non-agenda items. Two people spoke. He asked if there were other non-agenda item comments.

I asked if Item #61 would be discussed outside of executive session. He said no. I asked if there would be public discussion of item #61. He said no. I said that I would speak then and went up to the podium and delivered approximately this:

I would like to make a statement about the county contract with ICE and CCA. My name is Peter Dana. We are 28-year residents and taxpayers in the County.

Because these issues are discussed in executive session, and because we cannot see the minutes, or even the redacted minutes, we have no way of knowing what action this court is considering today. If the plan is to move children out of the T. Don Hutto facility, that would be a good move but it would not stop the protests, the lawsuits, or the negative attention brought to Williamson County.

The mission of the Corrections Corporation of America is not to provide a service to the county, the state, or the country, it is to provide profits for their stockholders. CCA announced a 25% profit increase just this morning, tied specifically to the money from the T. Don Hutto detention center.

CCA is the largest owner of private prisons in the country and has a long history of mistreating detainees. You would know this if you talked with four-year old Angelina Carbajal and her mother who were detained in Hutto for six months. These were fully documented asylum-seeker, not criminals.

As county commissioners you have made the County complicit in the detention of children. You have put the county at risk in the inevitable lawsuits that will follow from the detention of children for profit.

I ask that you stop aiding in the process of funneling taxpayer money into the pockets of CCA executives and stockholders.

Mary Ellen Kersch then spoke very strongly against the detention of children on moral and ethical grounds. I left and spoke with Mary Ellen Kersch for about ten minutes after leaving my card with a KLBJ Radio reporter. I returned at 12:30 in time for the court to move into executive session at 12:37.

I left again and returned at 1:15 PM. At 3:20 or so the court came back from executive session. They moved through several items and were about to adjourn when I asked if there would be any discussion of item #61. Judge Gattis said that it had not been discussed in executive session at all and that there would be no discussion now. They adjourned at about 3:30 PM.

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