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Sen. West, Civil Rights Groups Join Calls For Jail Closure

AUSTIN (CBS 11 NEWS) - Civil rights groups gathered in Austin at the Texas state capitol to release a report asking for the closure of Dawson State Jail in Dallas. The report details the decline in prison population and the deaths CBS 11 News has investigated.

Dozens of inmates, their families and even former guards have told CBS 11's Ginger Allen stories about loved ones dying or suffering because of a lack of medical care at the jail.

Twenty-five state and national groups are now urging legislators to close the Dallas jail, including the Texas Criminal Justice Coalition and the Texas Civil Rights Project.

"The reason why they're neglecting people medically and there have been seven deaths in the past seven years at Dawson is because they're cutting corners," said Michelle Smith, civil rights attorney for the Texas Civil Rights Project.

CBS 11 took the report to State Senator Royce West. Dawson State Jail is in his district. He expects the senate will vote to close the jail.

"By the end of the session, it will be closed. That's exactly what I want to see happen," said West. "I'd be shocked if my colleagues didn't support me on this issue."

Dawson is run by CCA, a private prison management company out of Tennessee. West questions the management of the jail.

"We had a vendor that was suppose to be managing the facility as it should be," said West. "We're not going to let anyone down in terms of closing Dawson."

CBS 11 also talked to State Representative Rafael Anchia, who agrees there is reason to consider closure.

CCA provided CBS 11 with the following statement:

"Corrections Corporation of America (CCA) has worked in strong partnership with the Texas Department of Criminal Justice (TDCJ) to effectively manage the Dawson State Jail for nearly a decade. In addition to providing secure housing for inmates, our dedicated employees also provide a wide range of rehabilitation programing, such as GED courses and faith-based opportunities, all at mandated cost savings for Texas taxpayers – savings that can be used for other public safety or rehabilitation opportunities.

TDJC contracts directly with the University of Texas Medical Branch (UTMB) to provide the healthcare services at Dawson State Jail. Although we are not the healthcare service provider at the facility, we take our role in the process of providing inmates access to care very seriously.

CCA has successfully contracted with TDCJ and the State of Texas for over 20 years in providing secure housing, quality rehabilitation programming and cost-effective services for offenders in compliance with state and national standards."

The state's contract with CCA's to manage the Dawson State Jail ends in August. State lawmakers are expected to vote this session on whether to renew it.

MORE: Human Rights Groups Call For Closure Of Dawson State Jail
MORE: CBS 11 Investigates: Woman Dies After Being Held Sick At Dawson State Jail For Days
MORE: Mysterious Jail Death Raises Questions
MORE: Another Family Blames Dawson State Jail For Inmate Death
MORE: Guards Come Forward In Dawson Jail Investigation

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