Texas Pols’ Dilemma: Should They Spend $19.5 Million for Unneeded Prison?


A legislative fight over buying an empty West Texas prison for $19.5 million has shifted focus as officials suggested that private bondholders – not a small Texas county – could benefit most from the controversial bailout, reports the Austin American-Statesman. One Senate leader hinted that if the state buys prison it doesn't need, state troopers and correctional officers may not get the raises they do need. At issue is an unused 1,100-bed lockup near Abilene built in 2010 with the expectation that the state would fill it with prisoners on contract. Faced with a declining prisoner population, the state canceled the contract before the lockup ever opened and it has sat idle ever since. Local officials are asking Texas to buy the empty center, even though the state's prison system currently has about 12,000 empty beds. The Senate doesn't want to, and is also pushing to close two existing privately run prisons. The House has voted to spend $19.5 million to buy the empty prison and mothball it for future use.

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