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Daily Newspaper and Travel Guide
for Pecos Country of West Texas

Monday, November 3, 2003

County talks with BOP about Wackenhut deal

Staff Writer

PECOS, Mon., Nov. 3, 2003 -- Reeves County Commissioners will meet this afternoon to decide on a proposal from Wackenhut Correctional Corp., to manage the 2,960 bed Reeves County Detention Center.

Commissioners met Friday afternoon to discuss bids for the lease and/or management of the minimum security prison, and while the county had received several inquires during the one-month period the bidding was open, Wackenhut was the only company to formally submit a bid to commissioners by the 2 p.m. deadline on Friday.

Don Houston, Central Region Vice-President for the Boca Raton, Fla.-based company, discussed Wackenhut's proposal with commissioners during the meeting. However, no action was taken after Precinct 3 Commissioner Herman Tarin said officials with the U.S. Bureau of Prisons in Washington, D.C., were asking for more information about the county's plans for management of the $89 million facility.

"I made a call at 2:15 p.m. and talked with Eliane Peebles (Contracting Officer for BOP)," Tarin said. Peebles has been one of the contact persons Reeves County officials have dealt with over the past seven months, since the 960-bed RCDC III addition opened.

Tarin said Peebles was seeking more information about the county's possible contract with Wackenhut, and that a conference call should be made between the BOP and county officials this morning.

"The reason I made that call to the BOP is we are still holding their inmates, and I wanted to talk to them and find out how they feel," Tarin said.

He added that Peebles indicated to him that she did not know about the county's plans to contract out management of the prison, though County Judge Jimmy B. Galindo said that problem wasn't the county's fault.

"They requested notice and we provided it two weeks ago, so it wasn't like they didn't know anything about it," Galindo said. However, he also agreed that the county should talk to the BOP before any decision is made.

"This is a very difficult period for us," he said. "We've made tremendous investments and we want to make sure the investments pay off for the community for a long time into the future."

The county completed work on the $40 million RCDC III addition in March, which holds 960 inmates. County officials built the facility believing that they would be able to fill the facility with U.S. Bureau of Prisons inmates, after the BOP quickly filled the 1,000-bed RCDC II prison when it was completed in 2001.

But the BOP has balked at placing any new prisoners in the facility, which has left the county short of money to make bond payments on the latest addition. The BOP said during the summer it had no need of any addition bed space in Texas, but on Oct. 24 posted a notice on its website seeking an addition 1,000 to 1,500 beds for low-security inmates by the summer of 2004. No specific location for the prison is listed on the BOP website, but applications are due in to the agency by Friday.

Houston said Wackenhut is the second largest privately owned prison management company in the United States, with 30,000 prisoners and 10,000 employees in 15 states. That includes 11 sites in Texas, and a regional headquarters in New Braunfels.

Wackenhut already runs two facilities similar to the RCDC, a 2,300-bed prison in Taft, Calif., and a 1,200 bed facility in Winton, N.C., according to Houston.

"We're not proposing to buy the facility or take over the facility. We want to work with you by bringing in a team of experts to work in security an IGA (inter-governmental agreement) with the BOP that incorporates your needs and numbers and incorporates the Statement of Work," he said.

That would include eventually shifting prisons from the original RCDC I unit, built in 1986, into RCDC III so that the older section could be updated to comply with the federal agency's Statement of Work and meet both BOP and American Correctional Association requirements.

"John Hurley, our vice president of operations, is committed to coming out here to work with us and work with Washington, D.C. to make sure some of the roadblocks get out of the way," Houston said.

He added that if additional inmates cannot be secured from the BOP, "We have contacts with state agencies and federal agencies where we can find sources (of prisoners)."

Galindo said under the proposed Wackenhut deal, lower-level staff at the RCDC would remain county employees, while the management team from department heads up would become Wackenhut employees.

"In order to implement cost saving ideas ... we need managers to do that," Houston said, while adding that Wackenhut would retain some of the current management team while having the option to bring in their own outside managers.

Prior to Houston's remarks, commissioners took a 70 minute break to look over the contract. Financial terms of the agreement were not discussed during Friday's meeting.

Houston said Wackenhut understood that the county needed to acquire funds to pay the debt service on RCDC III, along with providing jobs in Reeves County. Galindo said in August that because the RCDC III is cross collateralized with the other two units, a default on the bond payments of RCDC III would affect the status of the other two prisons as well.

RCDC I was built in 1986 to house 300 inmates, and over the next 12 years was expanded to hold 1,000 inmates. During that time, several disputes broke out between then-Reeves County Sheriff Raul Florez and county commissioners over which group would oversee the prison, and as a compromise in 1989 the prison operations were turned over to CCA. That company ran the prison for three years, until the contract was terminated and the sheriff's department regained control.

However, several prison escapes and two riots over the next three years led the BOP to remove some prisoners from RCDC I. County commissioners then took over supervision of the facility and hired former La Tuna Federal Prison Warden Rudy Franco to be in charge of the prison in late 1995. Franco and other members of the RCDC's management team were in attendance at Friday's meeting.

Before deciding on the prison management offer, Galindo and other county officials visited Washington D.C., twice during the summer, seeking both agreements to find new inmates for the facility, and a higher man/day rate on the BOP inmates housed at RCDC I and II. The county ended up agreeing to a man/day rate of $47.32 for those two prisons, though Galindo had sought a $54.72 rate, saying that private prisons operated by management companies in other parts of the United States received man/day rates of over $60 from the BOP.

Since then, the county has looked at several other options, including inmates through the U.S. Marshal's Service, the Department of Homeland Security and the State of Arizona. The Marshal's Service has placed over 100 inmates in RCDC III, but that total has not been enough to meet the future bond payments on the facility.

"There are five states with significant problems with capacity to meet their needs and they are outsourcing inmates," Houston said. He added that under Texas law, the inmates brought in from other states must be medium or low-security inmates.

Contreras' mother announces

June wedding for son, Lynch

From Staff and Wire Reports
Former prisoner of war Pfc. Jessica Lynch plans to visit her fiance's family this Thanksgiving and to marry Army Sgt. Ruben Contreras in June, the groom-to-be's mother said.

Contreras' mother, Lisa Latorre of Widefield, would not disclose the exact date and location of the wedding, The Gazette of Colorado Springs reported in Sunday's editions.

"I want this to be a real wedding for them, not just a bunch of media storming in," Latorre said.

Lynch, 20, and Contreras met almost two years ago at a Taco Bell near Fort Bliss, Texas, where they were stationed.

Contreras has lived most of his life in Colorado, but spent his early years in Pecos and attended Pecos High School for one year in the mid-1990s. His parents are divorced, and his father and grandparents still live in Pecos.

In January, Lynch was shipped to Kuwait with the 507th Maintenance Company. She was captured March 23 after her convoy was ambushed in the southern Iraqi city of Nasiriyah. She was rescued from an Iraqi hospital April 1 by U.S. forces.

Obligations have kept the couple apart, but Latorre said they talk on the phone "a hundred times a day."

Contreras is stationed in Texas while Lynch is scheduled for a round of media appearances this month. Her book, "I'm a Soldier, Too," comes out this month.

The couple eventually could end up in Colorado Springs. Contreras said he hopes to leave the Army next year and become a juvenile probation officer. "It'll be tough, but I like working with kids," he said.

He said he is applying to the University of Colorado at Colorado Springs and wants to settle in town.

"I'm looking forward to them finally being able to be together and happy," Latorre said. "They deserve that chance. They've been through so much."

Halloween parade full of entries for new route

Staff Writer

PECOS, Mon., Nov. 3, 2003 -- Third Street was full of witches, goblins, princesses and clowns Friday afternoon, for the Annual Mother Goose Halloween Parade.

Even though the parade route changed this year, a large group of both children and adults showed up for the event.

"We had a good turnout," said Pecos Area Chamber of Commerce Director Linda Gholson. "Plans and ideas are already being considered for next year."

The first place winner in the birth through three years of age category was Zoelle Alvarez, who was dressed as a skunk. Second place was Giselle Gabaldon, dressed as a clown and third place was Kalen Ornelas, as baby pumpkin.

In the four through six years of age: first place went to Dracula's Bride, Alondra Carrasco; second place to a Barbie, Natalia Rodriguez and third place, an alligator, Derek Jaso.

Harry Potter took first place in the seven through 12 years of age category. Second place was Cat in the Hat, Julie Doctor and third place, Harlee Lozano dressed up as Miss America.

Groups of two or more were plentiful as well. First place in that category went to Dana and Lauren Conger and Amber Vega, who were Disney princesses; second place went to a group of Spider Men and third place were the Portillo Brothers, who were dressed as Texas Tech Masked Riders.

This year's parade was held along a four block stretch of Third Street, from Hackberry to Palm Streets. The parade was not held in 2002, and in previous years, had been staged on Oak Street, between First and Sixth streets.

Churches move unity meetings to West Park

PECOS, Mon., Nov. 3, 2003 -- The Tuesday night Unity prayer meeting will move to West Park Baptist Church, beginning Nov. 4.

West Park Pastor Rev. Rey Carreon invites everyone to attend the meetings at 7 p.m., each Tuesday, in the church fellowship hall, 7th and Park Streets.

"We happy to host the prayer group again," said Carreon. "It began at West Park and met here for two years before moving to different venues. Now it has come full circle."

Each church hosts the weekly meetings for about four months. The most recent hosts were First Baptist, House of Prayer, North Temple and Primera Iglesia Bautista.


PECOS, Mon., Nov. 3, 2003 -- High Sunday 89. Low this morning 59. Forecast for tonight: Partly cloudy. Lows near 55. Southwest winds 10 to 20 mph. Tuesday: Sunny. Highs 75 to 80. West winds 10 to 15 mph increasing to 15 to 25 mph in the afternoon. Tuesday night: Clear. Lows in the mid 40s to the lower 50s. Southwest winds near 10 mph. Wednesday: Sunny. Highs in the mid 70s to the lower 80s. Southwest winds 10 to 15 mph.

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