Tarrant to look at terminating contract after state finds private jail out of compliance

Tarrant County commissioners voted unanimously Tuesday to explore terminating their contract with a private prison near Lubbock after the Commission on Jail Standards found it was out of compliance in six areas.

The county has spent $40 million for 500 beds at Giles W. Dalby Correctional Facility in Post. The prison is owned by Utah-based Management and Training Corp.

County Judge Tim O’Hare said commissioners were never notified of the December report and called the violations found by state inspectors “simply unacceptable.” Commissioner Alisa Simmons said she did not learn of the violations until she was asked about them by reporters.

State inspectors found medical treatment lacking for inmates, insufficient training and a failure to check on inmates in a timely manner among the violations.

“Six is probably a little on the higher end,” Brandon Wood, executive director of the Texas Commission on Jail Standards, told the Star-Telegram in an interview Monday.

Wood said Management & Training Corp. has asked for another evaluation, but a date has not been set.

Tarrant County initiated the contract to send inmates to the Giles W. Dalby Correctional Facility in August 2022, citing staffing shortages. The contract runs through the end of the year.

“Most of the items noted in the inspector’s report had to do with improper documentation. The Texas Commission on Jail Standards report also includes general advice and suggestions, which are not considered areas of non-compliance,” Emily Lawhead, a Management & Training Corp. spokesperson, said in a statement.

The statement also said that Management and Training Corp. welcomes audits and considers them as a useful tool. Lawhead said the company maintains regular contact with Tarrant County. however “there was some miscommunication” and the county was not “immediately made aware of the audit.”

O’Hare said every commissioner found the lack of communication unacceptable.

Simmons, who has opposed the contract, voiced her displeasure in a statement.

“In light of these developments, I want to reiterate my opposition to this contract and make it unequivocally clear that I am against extending it beyond its expiration date, “ Simmons said.

“The evident lack of sufficient oversight on the part of Tarrant County raises serious concerns about the viability and appropriateness of continuing the $40 million, 2.5-year contract with Management and Training Co for use of the Garza County facility.”

The Rev. Ryon Price, senior pastor of Broadway Baptist church, was among six people from the church to urge the county to terminate the contract.

“My question is, if they are out of compliance, and if they did not give notification, what other justification would we need to end this contract?” Price told the Star-Telegram.

One speaker, Jeralynn Jackee Cox, brought each commissioner a packet highlighting the violations in the county’s contract with Management and Training Co. that would allow them to terminate the contract.

The public discussion lasted roughly 45 minutes with 17 speakers.

Precinct 1 Commissioner Roy Brooks thanked those who showed up to speak.

“I wrestled with whether I should speak first or whether I should speak last. I’m glad I chose to let y’all speak first.,” Brooks said. “It was a good decision because y’all made the points. I trust that when my colleagues and I have a chance to take a second vote on this issue, that we will be moved by the passion and the wisdom of those who spoke this morning.”

One inmate from Tarrant County has died in custody at Dalby Correctional Facility.