By CHRIS AGEE
If the majority of legislators on the Senate Finance Committee have their way, the Mineral Wells Pre-Parole Transfer Facility will be closed in the near future.
The committee voted 11-4 earlier this week to shutter the Corrections Corporation of America facility, which Warden Cole McKennon said would negatively affect the local economy and workforce.
“We’re disappointed in that decision,” he said, explaining that the 2,103-bed prison provides 301 jobs at full staff and has a yearly payroll of $11.7 million.
Additionally, McKennon says the facility pays the City of Mineral Wells more than $1 million per year in utilities.
“We spend lots and lots of money in the city,” he said, adding the facility has improved greatly in recent years.
“I’ve got a good prison,” said McKennon. “They used to criticize this place because of contraband but the contraband isn’t here anymore. We haven’t found a cell phone in more than three months.”
The decision to close the facility is not final.
“It still has to go through the House of Representatives and a few other steps,” McKennon explained.
He noted the House can overturn the Senate’s vote, explaining he hopes members of that body take certain facts into account.
“The state is saying we’re going to close Mineral Wells and save all this money,” McKennon said. “It will actually cost the state more money to house inmates than it does us.”
The CCA facility has undergone more than $900,000 in upgrades since 2007, he added, which he said includes the installment of high-tech security cameras, metal detectors, reinforced fences, and other surveillance equipment.
Though he agrees representatives should be concerned with maintaining responsible spending, McKennon said experts should decide where those cuts make the most sense.
“At the end of the day what we need to fight for is to let [the Texas Department of Criminal Justice] decide which prisons to close,” he said, noting some facilities could possibly operate at lower capacity to cut costs.