Shut Down Deathly Private Prison

Target: Senator Whitmire, members of the Senate Committee on Criminal Justice, and Texas legislators

Goal: Shut down Dawson State Jail, a privately run prison for nonviolent offenders in Texas.

Instead of serving their time and eventually returning to society, prisoners at Dawson State Jail, a privately run institution for nonviolent offenders in Texas, experience squalid living conditions, mistreatment by understaffed prison employees, and denial to lifesaving medical care. A recent report by The Sentencing Project and Grassroots Leadership advocacy groups details the horrifying experiences of inmates and former prisoners and explains the numerous reasons as to why the prison should be closed. Their major finding is that the state would save $24 million a year if Dawson were shut down, citing a dwindling prison population and understaffing that makes Dawson dangerous for both employees and prisoners.

In fact, Dawson is so dangerous that seven inmates have died since 2004 because of denial of access to medical care. One woman died of pneumonia just six weeks before her release date because she was denied medication. Another woman’s diabetes medication was switched to a cheaper, but less effective, alternative causing comas and a string of offsite hospitalizations. She died from diabetes complications just two months after returning to Dawson.  Yet another tragic story from Dawson includes the death of a premature baby born to a prisoner unaware of her pregnancy before arriving at the prison. The prisoner began experiencing painful pressure and bleeding, but again was denied adequate care and subsequently gave birth to the child in a toilet. The baby girl died four days later.

Why then has Dawson remained open, despite the economic and moral reasons for its closure? Operation of the prison is under contract by the Corrections Corporation of America (CCA), a powerful lobbying group that profits from the incarceration of millions of Americans. CCA has denied any responsibility for the deaths and mistreatment of prisoners, claiming that the University of Texas Medical Branch—not CCA—is responsible for the medical care.  In every instance of mistreatment, however, denial of access to care is to blame, not the quality of the medical care itself. Texas’ contract with CCA is up for renewal in August 2013. Sign the petition below to tell the Texas state legislature that Dawson State Jail must be closed.

PETITION LETTER:

Dear Senator Whitmire, the Senate Committee on Criminal Justice, and Texas legislators,

Dawson State Jail is the embodiment of corruption, immorality, and wastefulness that is the private prison industry. Prisons such as Dawson are a poison to America’s entire criminal justice system, allowing private corporations to unethically profit from mass incarceration of Americans using government money. As evidence from Dawson demonstrates, this industry creates a violent and dangerous environment for prisoners and prison staff, harms local communities, and is a senseless waste of government funds.

Seven inmates at Dawson have died in the last ten years because prison employees denied them access to medical care. One woman died of pneumonia just six weeks before she was schedule to be released because she was denied medication. Another tragic story from Dawson includes the death of a premature baby born to a prisoner unaware of her pregnancy before arriving at the prison. The prisoner began experiencing painful pressure and bleeding, but again was denied adequate care and subsequently gave birth to the child in a toilet. The baby girl died four days later.

The Corrections Corporation of American (CCA) has ludicrously denied any responsibility for the deaths and mistreatment of prisoners, claiming that the University of Texas Medical Branch—not CCA—is responsible for the medical care.  In every instance of mistreatment, however, denial of access to care is to blame, not the quality of the medical care itself.

The moral implications of CCA’s contract with Texas are not the only concern. As an attempt to increase CCA’s profit margins, Dawson and other private prisons are drastically understaffed, leading to dangerous conditions for prisoners and employees. The economic reality of the situation must also be considered. Estimates show that Texas would save $24 million each year if you were to shut Dawson down.

As the state’s contract with CCA is approaching renewal this August, we demand that the contract not be renewed and Dawson finally be shut down.

Sincerely,

[Your Name Here]

Photo credit: Patrick Q via Flickr

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