NEW BOSTON, Texas — Bowie County Commissioners met Monday to open bids from companies seeking to operate and manage both the county's Correctional Center and Bi-State Justice Building jail.
They got only one — from LaSalle Corrections.
La Salle, a private company, has managed the Bi-State jail since 2013. Under La Salle's management of the local jail, there have been four in-custody deaths since 2015. They are:
—Michael Sabbie, whose July 2015 death prompted a federal lawsuit. A settlement was reached in the case earlier this year.
— Morgan Angerbauer's 2016 death in which a federal civil case is ongoing.
—Franklin Greathouse's March 11 death.
—and Michael Rodden's July 6 death.
As of August, Bowie County remains on the Texas Commission on Jail Standards list of non-compliant jails.
Inspections in the last year have indicated some employees have expired licenses, failure to follow the instructions of doctors treating inmates, failure to maintain accurate medical records and face-to-face checks and failure to consistently maintain correctional officer-to-inmate ratios
Bowie County's maximum jail capacity for the Bi-State and annex will be lowered and capped if the jail is still deemed non-compliant as of Jan. 1, according to minutes from a recent Texas Commission on Jail Standards meeting.
On Monday, the lack of bids, other than La Salle's, prompted Bowie County Judge Bobby Howell to appoint a six-member committee to study, research and review options regarding company bids. The members include Bowie County Auditor Jennifer Beckett, Sheriff James Prince, Sheriff's Chief Deputy Jeff Neal, Fifth District Court Judge Bill Miller, Precinct 2 Commissioner Tom Whitten and 202nd District Court Judge John Tidwell.
Last month, commissioners agreed to permit the county to advertise for bids from contractors seeking to manage both the county's Correctional Center and the Bi-State Justice Building jail. The 748-bed Correctional Center and the Bi-State jail, which can hold up to 164 inmates, are being managed by LaSalle Corrections, a management arrangement that started in 2013. The correction company's contract comes up for renewal in February.
Besides the jail management and operations bids, the court also opened bids submitted by three insurance firms seeking to be the county employees' health insurance provider.
The bids came from the Texas Association of Counties and two Texarkana, Texas-based firms, Offenhauser & Company and Daines Insurance & Financial Services LLP.
Howell then appointed himself, Precinct 4 Commissioner Mike Carter, County Auditor Jennifer Beckett and County Payroll Clerk Paige Brock to a committee to study the three bids.
In other business, commissioners appointed Ben Franks to the Bowie County Child Welfare Board.
Following the meeting, Jail Committee member Tom Whitten said that he wasn't sure of how many private jail operations and management service companies were in this region, but added that the committee will see what other options are available.