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DOJ to Probe Texas Rent-A-Jail

The Brazoria County Jail, site of the video-taped beatings that aired on network television, is but one of 38 for-profit jails or prisons in the state of Texas. And it's not the only one with problems, just the one with the most press.

A week before Brazoria County erupted into the national spotlight, the U.S. Justice Department's civil rights division announced that it planned to investigate the Dickens County Correctional Center (DCCC).

The facility is operated by the Bobby Ross Group, based in Austin, Texas. It is one of many small "Rent-a-Jails". in the state, housing primarily out of state prisoners about 60 miles east of Lubbock.

Colorado removed 140 of its prisoners from DCCC in June. The facility houses other prisoners from Hawaii and Montana, and hopes to fill the cells vacated by Colorado prisoners with fresh, profit-producing, warm bodies from Missouri.

The DCCC has experienced numerous problems in the last year. In August, 1996, 120 Hawaii and Montana prisoners refused to report to their jobs or return to their cells. Guards fired warning shots in an attempt to quell the disturbance. A month later, warden George Fry was fired for violating prison policies in dealing with the protest.

A February, 1997, audit by the Montana DOC cited the rent-a-jail for inadequate medical care, food and counseling programs.

In May, 1997, a fight erupted between Hawaiian and Montanan prisoners, leaving Montana prisoner Neal Hage dead.

Three Montana prisoners have escaped from the DCCC since August, 1996. One was later recaptured; two remain at large.

The DOJ didn't elaborate on what the focus of their DCCC investigation would be.

Associated Press

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