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The Calls To Close Dawson State Jail Grow Louder

Shelley Kofler

A coalition of civil rights advocates and inmate support groups are trying to build momentum for the legislature’s closing of the Dawson State Jail in Dallas.

Some 15 activists rallied in front of the jail last night blaming its private operator, Corrections Corporation of America, for the deaths of three female inmates and a baby born to an incarcerated mother. 

Michelle Smith of the Texas Civil Rights Projects claims Corrections Corporation of America (CCA) didn’t provide adequate access to medical care.

  “The big problem with private prison companies like CCA is they make money by cutting corners with prisoners’ medical care,” said Smith

“They are not providing adequate care which violates everyone’s civil rights, is unconstitutional and is the reason these women and four-day old newborn have died,” she said.

CCA has said it’s not the health care provider at Dawson, the University of Texas Medical Branch has that contract. 

But critics claim CCA is responsible because its guards decide whether to give inmates access to medical care.

The activists say they’re encouraged state lawmakers on a Senate committee have voted to cancel the state’s contract with CCA to run Dawson.   

If the full legislature agrees Dawson will close in August.  

Former KERA staffer Shelley Kofler was news director, managing editor and senior reporter. She is an award-winning reporter and television producer who previously served as the Austin bureau chief and legislative reporter for North Texas ABC affiliate WFAA-TV.