AFSCME Texas Corrections

Ceiling at Private Prison Collapses, Inmates Injured

Huntsville, Texas—Last week a ceiling collapsed at a privately operated prison in East Texas, injuring 19 inmates. The incident has some industry critics suggesting that a major cause of the problem is the for-profit model of the private prison industry.

In an interview with reporters, prison officials stated that the incident occurred just before noon on Saturday at the Diboll Correctional Center in an inmate dayroom area.  According to David Driskell, the facility’s warden, 85 inmates were subsequently transferred to another facility pending an evaluation of the damages.

The prison, which is operated by Management and Training Corporation, or MTC, opened in 1995 at the tail end of a five-year prison construction boom, during which time the budget of the Texas Department of Criminal Justice ballooned from $700 million to an unprecedented $2.2 billion, mostly as a result of prison industry lobbyists.

An official audit conducted by the State Auditor’s Office in 1997 found issues of favoritism in the selection of construction management firms; payments for unallowable and inappropriate reimbursements to contractors; and inconsistencies in contracts, projected budget controls, and dispute resolution procedures during the first half of the decade.

In recent years,  AFSCME members in Texas successfully prodded the state of Texas into shuttering two privately run corrections facilities that had multiple cases of administrative incompetence, security and operations problems, and health-related deaths. 

“There is still lots of work for us to keep these prison profiteers out of the state of Texas," stated Lance Lowry, president of AFSCME Local 3807. “This ceiling collapse is just more proof that these companies are putting profits over the health and safety of our officers and staff.”

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