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Outsourced Management of Mansfield Boot Camp To End

By Bill Zeeble, KERA 90.1 reporter

Fort Worth, TX – Bill Zeeble , KERA 90.1 reporter: For months, the privately-managed Tarrant County boot camp in Mansfield has come under fire. The toughest criticism came after January?s pneumonia death of 18-year-old probationer Bryan Alexander. Some of the harshest words were delivered by Arlington State Senator Chris Harris.

Chris Harris, State Senator (District 10): I don?t want to see them closed. But as long as we have a situation out there where women are abused, where the facility is understaffed on guards and ultimately led to the death of a man in their custody, then someone else ought to be running it.

Zeeble: Harris has wanted the Sheriff?s department to take it over. And now, it might. Yesterday, the 19-member Tarrant County Board of Criminal Court Judges, which oversees the boot camp, decided against the Florida-based manager of the facility. Correctional Services Corporation (CSC) has run the Mansfield camp since 1992. That contract ends in September. Despite recent allegations of inadequate medical care for several probationers and an ongoing investigation since Alexander?s death, CSC re-applied for the contract. It denies any wrongdoing. One other company also bid to manage the boot camp. But the judges said neither company seemed a viable alternative to local control. Judge James Wilson acknowledged the probationer?s death was on everyone?s mind, but said that wasn?t the main issue.

James Wilson, Judge, 371st Judicial District Court of Tarrant County: The main reason is budgetary, but its always a factor. Any negative publicity from any program is always a factor.

Zeeble: Judges say the boot camp is two and a half million dollars in the hole. Under the current budget, the cost per probationer exceeds 60 dollars. But judges say Harris County manages its own boot camp for non-violent offenders at 48 dollars a person. And it?s funded by the state. That?s what Judge George Gallagher hopes for in Tarrant County George Gallagher, Judge, 396th Judicial District Court of Tarrant County: I think this is a money deal. I think we recognize we need some increased funding. I think the legislature realizes that. Based on the feedback I?ve gotten, they don?t necessarily want it closed. They want to be able to offer that as an alternative.

Zeeble: Senator Harris, considered the point man in the Senate where money is concerned, says it?s likely Tarrant county will get the same kind of funding Harris county got. But the senator says he?s not familiar enough with that county?s program to endorse it yet. Judge Gallagher and the others say a local boot camp is a healthier alternative for young, immature lawbreakers than a county jail. Gallagher, who was just in the state capitol, says he?ll return if it?ll help secure the six and a half million dollars needed to fund the boot camp.

Gallagher: I?ll go back to Austin, beg, borrow or steal, see what I can do.

Zeeble: Judges have until the end of May to find the funds. That?s when the legislature closes for 17 months. For KERA 90.1, I?m Bill Zeeble.