SA Current On T. Don Hutto

Posted in T. Don Hutto, Williamson County at 11:57 am by wcnews

This article from the San Antonio Current by Dave Maass, Hutto Report, has some interesting information about the lock-up. Mr. Maass has a unique perspecitve on CCA having toured their prisons before:

About five years ago, I toured the Florence Correctional Center, a CCA prison housing Hawaiian medium-security inmates in the Arizona desert. The prison was mired in scandal: a Hawaiian state investigation found that prison officials had essentially handed control of the facility to a prison gang, which was employing intimidation and violence to traffic drugs and operate a prostitution ring using female immigration detainees also at the prison.

Structurally speaking, Hutto is simply a smaller version of the Florence Correctional Center. My dèjá vu came with the chill in the air and the echoes off the bare white walls, all marked with CCA’s signature red stripe. I recognized the prison elements in Hutto’s “pods,” the contained areas where two tiers of cells open onto a shared recreation area. At Florence, a square patch of carpet broke up the center of the floor, marking a no-go zone for inmates; stepping in that space would earn you disciplinary measures. At Hutto, the carpet is hidden beneath a row of foam chairs below the ceiling-mounted television

One new and interesting fact that came out in this article is we learn of a Community Relations Board meant to work with ICE. We only learn about it because when pressed by Mr. Maass about the relationship between CCA and Williamson County, it’s used to dodge a follow-up question:

At the end of the tour, reporters attempted to get their final questions answered by ICE’s Assistant Director for Detention and Removal Operations, Gary Mead.

“Why was the decision made to contract this facility to a private company?” I asked. Mead answered, “There was no magic reason. It was because of our relationship with Williamson County, not CCA.” As I attempted to follow-up, a CCA official cut me off. “This interview is over,” he said. I turned to Mead, who shrugged. Outside, I asked ICE media coordinator Richard Rocha who was in charge of the tour, CCA or ICE? “We’re working together,” he said.


My unanswered follow-up question to Mead was about the relationship between Williamson County and CCA. On the “fact sheet” distributed to the media, ICE boasts that one “highlight” of the facility is a Community Relations Board “comprised of about 25 local citizens, including the bank president, mayor, chamber of commerce president, county and district officials, and representatives of the local media.”

I called Taylor Chamber of Commerce President Shanta Kuhl. “They have a community-relations board?” she asked.

Further investigation revealed:

Taylor Mayor Benito Gonzales said he has not been invited to sit on the board. He said it may have existed when the facility was an adult prison, but doubted it was still around.

Connie Watson, the public-information officer for Williamson County, said none of the county commissioners sit on the board.

Rick Zinsmeyer, director of adult probation, confirmed that he is on the board, but said he had not attended a meeting in months.

ICE did not respond to queries regarding the board’s composition.

Williamson County officials looking good as usual. These boards usually have to meet to be effective. The other striking point that comes out in this article is that many, our Congressman included, tend to look at the people in this lock-up as illegal immigrants from South of the border. While nobody should be treated this way, not matter where they are from, these folks are mostly asylum seekers, political prisoners. These people are not flight risks because they have no place to flee. If they go back to where they came from they more than likely face prison, torture or death. That’s why many of our ancestors came here and this is no way to introduce these people to a free country.

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