UPDATED Coalition Looking Forward to TDCJ Closing Some Privately Run Jails

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A coalition of anti-private-prison groups is claiming victory for the Texas Department of Criminal Justice's plans to close two privately run detention centers in the wake of a $97 million budget cut.

Grassroots Leadership, along with the ACLU of Texas, the Texas Criminal Justice Coalition, and other groups had pushed for the closure of Dallas's Dawson State Jail and the Mineral Wells pre-parole transfer facility, both run by Nashville-based Corrections Corporation of America.

Dawson State Jail "has been the site of the deaths of three female inmates over the last two years, and the death of an infant baby girl who was born to her incarcerated mother...in a toilet with no [medical] personnel on site," according to a press release from Grassroots Leadership.

Although TDCJ will shutter two privately run facilities, it has not formally announced if it will close the two recommended by the coalition.

TDCJ Spokesman Jason Clark said the Department will make its decision after Governor Rick Perry signs the new budget in mid-June.

Michelle Smith of the Texas Civil Rights Project is also quoted in the release as saying "It violates everyone's civil rights and it's unconstitutional when private, for-profit companies like CCA cut corners and provide inadequate care. It also leaves the state open to lawsuits when tragedies happen, like the deaths of the women at Dawson."

We left a message seeking comment from CCA and will update if and when we hear back.

UPDATE: CCA Spokesman Mike Machak says in an email that the company "has worked in strong partnership with the Texas Department of Criminal Justice for...over 20 years to provide safe, secure housing and quality rehabilitation programming for inmates at a cost savings for taxpayers." He also noted that CCA offers "GED courses, faith-based opportunities and substance abuse counseling." He did not address the deaths cited by Grassroots Leadership.

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