Mineral Wells seeks fair shake for prison in budget discussions.

Posted Thursday, May. 02, 2013  comments  Print Reprints

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We take umbrage at the Star-Telegram’s Tuesday editorial, “Texas shouldn’t keep spending on unneeded prisons.”

The Editorial Board demonstrates shallow knowledge of the facts surrounding the proposed closure of the Mineral Wells Pre-Parole Transfer Facility operated by Corrections Corporation of America.

The editorial asks: “Is it Texas taxpayers’ role to bolster a large employer in a small town when the services provided come expensively and inefficiently?” Yet, it provides no evidence that the prison in Mineral Wells is operated poorly or at a higher cost.

At $33.42 per inmate per day, Mineral Wells’ CCA Pre-Parole Transfer Facility compares favorably costwise with state averages documented in the Legislative Budget Board’s 2013 Criminal Justice Uniform Cost Report. Comparable state-operated facilities average $42-$43 per inmate, per day.

The editorial does not mention the Mineral Wells facility’s unique role in Texas corrections. As the only pre-parole transfer facility for men in Texas, CCA’s Mineral Wells operation readies men to re-enter the world through GED preparation and training in such professions as carpentry and plumbing.

Nearly 230 offenders earned GED certificates last year in Mineral Wells. If our goal as Texans is to reduce recidivism by successfully reintegrating low-level offenders into society, Mineral Wells’ pre-parole lockup should be adopted as a model, not shuttered.

We might have hoped that the Star-Telegram would have probed further into the reasons why the CCA facility in Mineral Wells has been targeted for closure. Senate Criminal Justice Committee Chairman John Whitmire, D-Houston, has been floating the idea of closure for several years.

The senator began an anti-contraband crusade in 2008 after receiving a cellphone call from an inmate in another Texas prison.

At that time, Mineral Wells’ facility did have a problem — one that CCA has spent more than $900,000 to remedy. A cellphone has not been found in more than four months.

Mineral Wells has asked the House-Senate budget conference committee to consider our CCA facility’s merits. That is all. If a proper analysis demonstrates that ours is the worst-run prison in the state, which it will not, we will deal with that.

We are disappointed that on this issue that is so important to our community, Mineral Wells did not get a fair shake from the Star-Telegram.

Mike Allen is the Mineral Wells mayor. Dacey Malone is the board chairman and Beth Henary Watson is executive director of the Mineral Wells Area Chamber of Commerce.

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