Use Excess Beds in Privately Operated Prisons

The Texas Department of Criminal Justice should authorize an additional 20 inmates in each of the four privately operated prisons.

In 1987, the Legislature authorized the Texas Department of Corrections, now called the Texas Department of Criminal Justice-Institutional Division (TDCJ-ID), to contract with private vendors for financing, construction, operation, maintenance and management of co rrectional facilities. 1 Currently, there are 2,000 private prison beds in Texas (two private vendors are each operating two 500-bed prisons). In 1991, the 72nd Legislature authorized an additional 2,000 prison beds to be operated by private vendors. 2

The two private vendors have additional beds beyond the 500 contracted beds. Corrections Corporation of America (CCA) has 29 additional beds, nine for administrative segregation ( admin. seg., a single-bed cell used for inmates with disciplinary problems) and 20 general-population beds in each of their units. 3 Wackenhut Corporation has 28 admin. seg. cells in each of their units. 4 Vendors indicate that the extra beds are seldom used. Wackenhut s Kyle and Bridgeport units did a 20-month usage survey. During that period, 10 percent of the extra beds were used in one month only. 5 The 20 extra general-population beds in each of CCA s facilities are never used.

Both vendors agreed that they could operate the additional beds without a negative impact on their ability to control inmates and maintain order. By adding these beds, the state could accept additional inmates presently backlogged in county jails for per d iem only.

Under current contracts, per diem is $35.25 per day per inmate. The state deducts an amou nt to service the debt incurred to build the facilities. Therefore, the vendors are paid about $29. Vendors may be willing to discount the per diem for the extra 20 inmates in each facility. One vendor has offered to contract for these extra 40 inmates at $19.50 per day. 6

The Texas Department of Criminal Justice (TDCJ-ID) should increase the number of inmates permitted to be incarcerated in privately operated facilities by 20 in each of the four privately run units. The Legislature should authorize the additional 80 beds to allow the state to use the extra beds as long as it is beneficial.

This increase will allow eight or nine beds for disciplinary needs while providing 80 additional beds to house state prisoners. The Legislature has already authorized an additional 2,000 beds to be operated by private vendors until those facilities are con structed. These additional 80 beds could be added without any changes to state law. Officials of the Institutional Division of TDCJ can act on this recommendation without any statutory change.

Under current law, which limits the operation of privately managed facilities to 4,000 beds, this recommendation can only be used until the additional 2,000 private prison beds are constructed and occupied. When the new privately operated prisons are opene d, the extra private beds can not be used without a change in the statute.

This recommendation would provide 80 additional prison beds to be filled by convicted felons currently waiting in overcro wded county jails for vacancies in state prisons. The state is paying counties for the care of these inmates at rates of $20, $30 or $35.25 per day.

Fiscal Impact
The potential savings are due to: (1) the avoidance of higher payments to some counties that house inmates and receive a fee from the state; (2) payments to counties for the care of their own backlog of prison-ready inmates; and (3) the avoidance of fines imposed on the state by a federal court judge regarding inmates in Harris County. These fines will begin April 1, 1993, and will be $50.00 per inmate per day, for every inmate over the specified jail capacity.

The fiscal implications presented below are based on the Legislative Budget Board s estimate of shortfalls due to the county jail backlog, the associated payments due to the backlog and the impact of additional beds upon that backlog.

Fiscal Savings to the General Change in
Year Revenue Fund 001 FTEs

1994 $600,000 0
1995 600,000 0
1996 600,000 0
1997 600,000 0
1998 600,000 0

1 Tex. Gov t. Code ch. 495 sec. 495.001 (Vernon Supp. 1992).
2 Tex. Gov t. Code ch. 495 sec. 495.007 (Vernon Supp. 1992).
3 Interview with David L. Meyers, Vice President, Facility Operations, Corrections Corporation of America, Nashville, Tennessee, November 13, 1992.
4 Interview with John Bonner, Warden, Wackenhut Corrections Corporation, Kyle, Texas, November 12, 1992.
5 Letter from John Bonner, Warden, Wackenhut Corrections Corporation, Kyle, Texas, November 13, 1992.
6 Interview with Meyers.