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Private Prisons, Veterans Court, and Ship Channel Stories: Houston Matters for Thursday, October 16, 2014

Earlier this month, allegations of sexual abuse surfaced at a South Texas detention center for mothers and children fleeing violence and persecution in Central America. The Karnes City facility is run by a private, for-profit operator based in Florida, which strongly denies the allegations. The claims come four months after the ACLU issued a report alleging thousands […]

Earlier this month, allegations of sexual abuse surfaced at a South Texas detention center for mothers and children fleeing violence and persecution in Central America. The Karnes City facility is run by a private, for-profit operator based in Florida, which strongly denies the allegations. The claims come four months after the ACLU issued a report alleging thousands of non-citizens are subjected to abuse and dangerous conditions in privately-run federal prisons in Texas. The report described overcrowding, squalid conditions and insufficient medical care.

Privatized detention facilities and prisons bring both potential benefits and liabilities. Promises of cost, efficiency, and service draw states like Texas to use them under certain circumstances. But those promises aren’t always met, and allegations of abuse underscore concerns about a lack of transparency and oversight.

On this edition of Houston Matters, we discuss the history of private prisons in the state, and consider the pros and cons of their use. And we hear from the city manager of Littlefield, Texas about that town’s experience with a privately-run prison.

Also this hour: Starting next month, a new veterans court in Harris County will hear misdemeanor cases involving veterans accused of criminal behavior that may stem from combat-related trauma. We learn more.

And: As the Houston Ship Channel closes in on its centennial Nov. 10, we learn about an art exhibit telling the stories of the workers who built it. Stories of a Workforce is on display now through January at the Houston Public Library’s Ideson building downtown.

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