To the Editor,

Residents should be increasingly concerned with the efforts of the Ellis County Commissioners Court continuing on the path of privatizing the Ellis County jail.

A committee the commissionersí court tasked with reviewing the bids from Community Education Centers (CEC) and LaSalle Southwest Corrections rated the bids at 64.81 points and 53.31 points, respectively, out of a possible 100 points. Last Thursday Texas Prison Bidíness rightfully compared these ratings to a D grade in most schools.

The obvious concerns are reduced salaries and benefits for correctional staff who are already underpaid. Numerous studies and articles conclude privatization can only be profitable by decreasing staffing levels, significantly reducing employee salaries and cutting benefits.

The staffing concerns are also supported by CEC reviews on with reviews posted by employees. Employees claim low pay, poor benefits, inadequate staffing, poor administration and mismanagement as problems.

What is more disturbing than members of our commissioners court wanting to continue with the privatization process by entering into contract negotiations with CEC despite such poor bid ratings is the numerous documented serious and dangerous failures by CEC in Texas and other parts of the country.

The New York Times conducted a 10-month investigation into New Jersey CEC facilities in June of last year and documented a number of serious problems that would make most people cringe and demand negotiations end immediately.

A number of employees have been arrested and charged with providing inmates with drugs and other contraband. Sexual abuse and assaults have been documented, including at the hands of employees. The problems continue with drunken staff, forging inmate records, among many other things.

Numerous escapes resulted in murders by the escapees with CEC failing to promptly notify authorities of the escapes. A June 2012 article by the ACLU states that approximately 5,100 inmates in various CEC facilities have escaped since 2005.

The ACLU also reported that the Immigrations and Customs Enforcement removed all immigration detainees from a McLennan County CEC operated jail in December 2011 because of inadequate medical care, food, access to legal assistance and worship services.

McLennan County finally ended its contract with CEC in May of this year and switched to LaSalle. However, LaSalle has many disturbing problems of its own.

This entire mess that may be coming to Ellis County can be halted very quickly. All it takes is for Sheriff Johnny Brown to tell the commissioners court that he does not support privatization and the courtís hands will be tied.

Sec. 351.102 of the Texas Local Government Code prohibits commissioners' courts from entering into contracts with private companies for jail management unless the county sheriff provides written approval.

I encourage residents to contact their county commissioner and attend the 2 p.m. commissionersí court meeting on Thursday that will be held on the second floor of the Historic Ellis County Courthouse in Waxahachie.

Say no to the selling out of Ellis County!

Dave Vance,