Tuesday, June 11, 2013
Dawson State Jail in Dallas will close on August 31
City manager Mary Suhm said the city has been told in the past “we will have first dibs” on the property if and when it goes on the market.
DALLAS The city of Dallas just got one of its oldest wishes granted: The Texas Department of Criminal Justice will close the Dawson State Jail on the Trinity River on August 31.
Jason Clark, the Huntsville-based spokesman for the TDCJ, said Tuesday morning that for-profit operator Corrections Corporation of America was notified Monday that its services are no longer needed at the jail on W. Commerce Street. The state corrections agency will also shutter the Mineral Wells Pre-Parole Transfer Facility following lawmakers’ vote in late May to save $97 million by closing the two jails.
The legislature voted to shutter the facilities, but TDCJ ultimately had the final say.
The contract for both facilities ends on August 31. Between now and then, said Clark, “offenders will be transferred to facilities with existing capacity in the coming months.”
Said Clark, female offenders from Dallas County will likely be sent to Woodman State Jail in Huntsville. Male offenders will more than likely wind up at Hutchins State Jail.
State lawmakers, chief among them Sen. John Whitmire, have proposed closing Dawson and the Mineral Wells Pre-Parole Transfer Facility because of dwindling population in state-operated correctional facilities. According to Clark, Mineral Wells is also well under capacity: It holds 2,100, but its current population is 796. Dawson, on the other hand, is nearly at maximum capacity: It holds 2,216 inmates, and is but 15 shy of that ceiling.
Dawson has also been the subject much scrutiny in recent years following several health-related deaths there. A federal lawsuit was filed in March alleging that a premature baby died after she was delivered into a toilet when guards refused the mother’s cries for help.
And for years, the city of Dallas has been trying to get its hands on that property for a Trinity River development. When contacted by The Dallas Morning News this morning, Dallas City Manager Mary Suhm had no idea TDCJ would be closing the jail. But she was certainly pleased.
“It’s a nice opportunity, and we’ll go work on it right away,” said Suhm, “You’re bringing me some very good news.”
Suhm said the city has been told in the past “we will have first dibs” on the property if and when it goes on the market. But even before then, she said Tuesday morning, “We’ll talk to folks, and especially folks who own land around the jail, and see what their interest is.”
TDCJ owns the building, according to Clark, who says, “We’ll work with local and state leaders to determine the fate of the building.” In the meantime, Clark said, employees from Hutchins will come by and “do basic minimal maintenance, which involves checking the water, infrastructure, that kind of thing.”
Messages have been left for CCA spokesman Steve Owen.
Updates to come.
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