Williamson County Doubles Lease Time for Children's Prison

Williamson County Commissioners not only renewed the one-year lease with Corrections Corporation of America, they made it a two-year lease. The Austin American-Statesman rushed to the web with the news, which was a service in two respects. It was a quick report, and it reminded us why we prefer to cover activists, not authorities. Or, to put it in the paradigm of the Gospels referenced below, we’d be much more interested in covering Jesus, not Pilate, you know, that Jerusalem commissioner who washed his hands of the matter, muttering something about it being Rome’s business, not his. Anyway, here’s an email from Jay J. Johnson-Castro, including activist accounts of what happened today–gm

Hey Jessica…and Jane…

Thanks to both of you for the eyewitnesses accounts ( below for ) what transpired today at the Williamson County Commissioners Court. Many have wanted to know.

We’re all disappointed…of course…but not surprised. Nonetheless … however it would have turned out today … we all should know that we were going to win … and win handily. This flies in the face of all true lovers of freedom and justice. We have simply seen a much finer demarcation between the champions of the children, of morality, and of democratic freedoms in this country, and those that … will not defend them.
I heard Ex Governor of Arkansas and presidential hopeful, Huckabee, say last night…that we have two Americas . It becomes no clearer than on the imprisonment of innocent children…for corrupt, greedy and obscene profits. Are you against imprisoning innocent children? One America . Do you approve of children in cells for 22 hours a day in a prison camp on the pretense of national security? Another America .

One thing for sure. Williamson County …and Taylor , Texas …is going to suddenly wake up and find itself in the national and international spotlight. Anyone ever heard of Auschwitz ? Yet…I also believe that the majority of citizens of Taylor and Williamson County will show the spirit of the American Constitution…that of “We the people”.

How often have we heard…and said it ourselves…”It’s all about the money”? Commissioners that would sell out innocent children for a buck a day…are little different than a court of Judases. A political elitist like DeLay who would take $100,000 from CCA is a criminal. An administration that would funnel $7000 a month of American tax payers’ money to a CCA, GEO or Halliburton to imprison a 2-y-o innocent child is a criminal administration. Every decision maker who is complicit in this international crime should have to live as these children have been living.

If there is any metal in this new Congress…it should be shown here and now…on this very issue. There is no other like it in our modern history. If the new Congress wants to be recognized as a champion of democracy…let them act now…and free these children and their mothers. Who cares where they go. A wrong cannot be corrected by an evil.

For the sake of Texas and the American dream…the children MUST be freed…NOW!!! The Ibrahim and Suleiman families MUST be released to go back to their lives as productive immigrants…NOW!!! They must not be deported.

Again…I ask. Where is our national media? Where are the Governor of Texas and the legislators? Where is the Congress? Where are the champions of the innocent? You know why Lou Dobbs isn’t speaking about this…and defending the actions Chertoff and ICE on this. His real strength of character couldn’t hold up. If he tried…he’d be mocked off of CNN by the viewer-ship. Come on Laura Ingram, Sean Hannity, Rush Limbaugh. Take a crack at it. I’d be glad to debate this American tragedy with you. I’m just a grassroots guy. No techno tower tricks. Real dialogue.

Hey Nancy Grace? How about these kids?

All the more reason for Vigil IV on Feb 12th. I’ll be in touch…


P.S For those with a Bible based faith…how did Jesus treat the little children? JJJ


Yes I got a chance to speak. We were limited to 5 speakers. The place was packed! We got our say – I must say that our defense was strong, articulate and full of passion… but it was fruitless…. they agreed to renew the lease for 2 more years.

They on the other hand had a conspiracy theorist who stated that “Mexicans” were planning to take over Texas . Kidnap women and steal stuff and take them back to Mexico . The surprise of the day was Mrs. Ella Jez, Taylor City Council woman from Taylor who spoke “in favor” of the prison. She painted a pretty rosy picture of the facility…. it almost made me want to plan my next vacation there.

No one has had a chance to read the new lease as it was not offered for review.

Jose Orta


Jessica wrote:

Hello all, just a little addition to Jane’s email.

….The woman representing CCA is Laurie Shanblum. I believe she was actually the person in charge of preparing the prison to become a “residential facility”.

After the vote, many gathered outside the court. Sherry and I observed a man asking many specific, hard hitting questions about the facility. His name is Mark Smith. He is an I-TEAM producer from WFAA – TV in Dallas . He has been following a story of Dallas residents that have relatives in the facility. Tomorrow night they are running a piece on the family and he is interested on keeping up with what is going on at TDH. He has information that those being held are given 24 minutes to eat…they can shower between 6-6:30am…twenty children share 2 toy cars to play with…guards tell residents that if their children don’t behave they can send them away. The rebuttal from CCA is that ICE has the decision making ability to separate families if there are any problems. It is a privilege, not a right for families to be together. If there is a problem woman can be in one facility, men in another, and children with a CPS like facility.

After CCA squirmed and ran, I moved on to the warden to listen to what he had to say. He speaks off the record. His information was there are about 400 currently being held and half that number is children. There is a physician and a physician’s assistant from I believe he said the US Public Healthy Services. Once a week, women who need prenatal or gynecological care go to a clinic.

The decision to renew this lease was clearly made in executive session. Today Judge Gattis made a motion to renew the lease with a few considerations provided by “lawyers” without discussion. Lisa Birkman, fearing for her seat, made some statements that was supposed to make us feel better…there are no US Citizens being detained, she stated classrooms were comparable to classrooms in Round Rock, and a few other remarks to make her seem less blameworthy for her vote to renew. I believe the action of the Commissioner’s Court violates the open meeting rule. Again, I contend that this decision was made behind close doors without public access.

As I was leaving the Annex, KLBJ was reporting that Williamson County had voted to renew the lease. This story is growing daily. Thank you Jose, Sherry and Jane and all of the others who have brought this to the attention of the public. It is sickening that Williamson County is participating in this abuse of rights and making themselves lackeys of evil.

As Jim Stauber pointed out when he spoke, Valerie Covey said a prayer that she was thankful enjoy the freedom of this country and that she prayed God would help them make good decisions for Williamson County. Jesus would slap the shit out of them….

Oh and Jane, even though it says you can contact the warden for a tour, the warden would refer

you to ICE.



On 1/30/07, Jane L Van Praag wrote to Jay:

Perhaps one or more of the attendees who got to their computer before I did has already told you that the WC Commissioners’ Court did vote to let the CCA contract continue; I do think I heard Judge Gattis say something to the effect of ‘with modifications as discussed today’ but don’t bank on it because my hearing is really deteriorating. Jose Orta, on behalf of LULAC had called for several improvements at least during the interim and that may be what the Judge was referring to but I am copying Jose and all the others named herein to make sure.

The five speakers opposed were a lady from Round Rock whom I had not met before and I couldn’t hear much of what she said including her name, etc. Then Peter Dana spoke, followed by Jose Orta, Jim Stauber, and Frances Valdez of the UT Law School Immigration Clinic. Before the convening I’d also placed a copy of a letter Melissa Irion wrote on each court member’s portion of their dais.

I think only 3 people spoke for the facility; one was this staunch Constitutionalist Party guy who just ran for governor and received around 300 votes from the Florence area, a woman from Taylor who was able to tour the facility and reported favorably, and another woman whose name I didn’t catch but she’s the Austin liaison for CCA and presented a broad background working in juvenile justice. However, three pews were almost filled with young men and women dressed in the CCA uniform. I guess they were prepared to speak or just to make a showing, don’t know.

In addition to the above named and myself, also present were Efrain Davila, Billie Reaney, Jessica Stempko, Tracey Storie, Richard Torres, and I may be overlooking one or two others.

Soon I am going to contact TDH and arrange to tour the facility now that I see it’s so easy to do.

Good luck on your trip,



The following email was circulated separately–gm


KXAN Austin was at the Commissioners Mtg and did a fair report at 6 and will probably repeat it at 10. I didn’t get the call letters of the Spanish language TV station that came late but its channel 60. Lisa Ogle from the AAS was there and Ben Trollinger from the Williamson County Sun . The media had a press release in their hands on the approval of the contact BEFORE the meeting ended.

The woman from Taylor who spoke glowing of the conditions in the prison is Ella Jez. She is a rich Republican Taylor city council member. I have it on good authority that Judge Gattis, head of Williamson County Commissioners Court , spoke to her at the Taylor Chamber of Commerce Banquet last Thursday and asked her to get info and present at the commissioners court. Warden Liles and other CCA people were at the Banquet but I don’t know if she got her tour before or after Gattis asked her to speak. I think I can get more information soon.

According to Commissioner Birkman, the rest of the Court wanted the contract to remain in effect indefinitely but she got them to change it to a 2-year contract.

Progress is slow but definitely heading in the right direction.


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