What Happens At TDH, Stays At TDH

Posted in Commissioners Court, T. Don Hutto, Williamson County at 10:57 am by wcnews

A great article in the TDP, ICE blocks 9-1-1 calls from T. Don Hutto (TDH), about the Williamson County Commissioners Court’s (WCCC) uninformed vote regarding a contract change at T. Don Hutto.

Outgoing 9-1-1 calls placed by immigrants detained at T. Don Hutto Residential Facility in Taylor will soon be blocked after Immigration Customs Enforcement changes the phone system in the former prison. The block affects telephones used specifically by immigrants housed in the facility. Also blocked will be all incoming phone calls.

The change came as part of a change in the contract between Williamson County and Immigration Customs Enforcement billed as “Modification … relating to Low Cost Telephone Services” on the county commissioners’ agenda Tuesday.

The commissioners voted 5-0 in favor of the item with no discussion of the matter. After the vote, County Judge Dan Gattis said he was unaware the alteration in the agreement effectively blocked outgoing 9-1-1 phone calls.

Regional Spokesman for ICE Carl Rusnok said the ability of residents at T. Don Hutto to place 9-1-1 phone calls is unnecessary because of the presence of trained medical professionals inside the facility.

No matter what one thinks of this change, Gattis’ response and the WCCC’s unanimous vote in favor of it, without any discussion, is unsavory. It’s unlikely this change is do to anyone dialing 911for medical reasons or “abuse” of the system as Rusnok mentions later. But probably more to do with the an earlier scandal at TDH, that Jose Orta points out in the article.

Local League of United Latin American Citizens member and T. Don Hutto critic Jose Orta said ICE and Corrections Corporation of America, which operates the facility, were “covering themselves” from any possible calls to police.

He referenced an alleged sexual assault that occurred in the facility in May of 2007. That incident led to the firing of a CCA employee after he was caught on a surveillance camera sneaking in and out of a detainee’s cell.

No charges were ever filed against the employee in that instance because of a now-corrected loophole in federal law.

CYA by ICE. While it’s unseemly the way the Feds are clamping down at TDH, it’s not, unfortunately, surprising.

Orta only partially blamed commissioners for letting the agreement slip through without any debate.

“This is the sad part about the county commissioners; they’re not privy to all that goes on in T. Don Hutto. Every time they amend their contract … ICE … is not going to be forward about their intentions,” he said.

Grassroots organizer and frequent protester of the facility Bob Libal said not allowing immigrants to place emergency phone calls is unsafe and that residents need access should they feel a need to call the police.

“It certainly doesn’t seem like a good safety measure. And if ICE is upholding (T. Don) Hutto as a place that is safe and secure, that doesn’t seem like a very appropriate action,” Libal said.

What happens at TDH, stays at TDH.


  1. FedUp said,

    July 27, 2008 at 11:22 am

    I can’t believe the statements that come out of Judge Gattis’s mouth.

    I’m wondering if another reason for cutting out the 9-1-1 calls is because a selected few “law enforcement officials” from the Sheriff’s office are supposed to be working “off duty security” jobs. At least, that’s what I remember the WCCC and their Sheriff had planned to start after the rape of an immigrant.
    It’s another way to make sure things stay very very quiet. And if something was to “leak” out, the Sheriff’s hand picked “Coverup Deputies” are there to make sure it never happened.

  2. wilcowatcher said,

    July 28, 2008 at 1:32 pm

    Perhaps if Wilco extends this ban on 9-1-1 countywide, they won’t need to explain where the money (and motivation) went for getting a new Computer Aided Dispatch system as described in the earlier guest editorial…

  3. FedUp said,

    July 28, 2008 at 8:00 pm

    Wilcowatcher, I have read or I tried to read as best I could. I have some questions that come to mind and I hope you can help me out. I may be way off base here, so bare with me. It sounds if the WCCC and their Sheriff did have money for CAD. What did they spend it on? Did Gary Oldham catch them on it? Is this why he was quickly “removed” even thought he quit?

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