Six Shooter – It’s a business; a bottom line runs through it.
The appointment of former McLennan County Sheriff Larry Lynch as the chief honcho at the community college law enforcement training academy signals a triumph of the concept of applying industrial principles to interlocal government functions.
Under a more ancien regime, the approach both royal and constitutional was that of a ministerial duty – a service – rather than a systemic industrial application, from investigation to warrant, arrest to trial, thence to sentencing, and so forth – to prison.
In a recent laudatory article that appeared in a local mercantile daily, Lynch is quoted extensively, using the term “industry,” as it applies to law enforcement.
It’s no surprise. As Chief Deputy, then high Sheriff, he guided the outsourcing of corrections for federal and state prisoners during a time of judicial turmoil tailor made by the U.S. Department of Justice, a tempest in a teapot the barkers out front ballyhooed as being all about “overcrowding,” while the bankers out back counted the shekels, stacked the sheaves, cut up the dough. Critical thinkers point out the fact that the pump priming left the “corrections industry” overbuilt to the extent that, on any given night, an estimated average of 22,000 empty bunks in 254 Texas county jails are vacant.
Every night, 365 nights per year, more than 300 of those empty bunks are located in the Courthouse “annex,” a recently remodeled jail the Commissioners’ Court spent more than a million dollars overhauling. The new paint job left it with everything but a fire sprinkler and alarm system, certified emergency smoke exhaust fans – and an operating permit. At any rate, at 17 inches, the height of the benches in the courtroom holding cells are two inches shy of the standards set by the Texas Commission on Jail Standards as an acceptable floor-to-buttocks ratio. CEC, Inc., billed it as a real money-maker when it had a contract to house prisoners of the Immigration and Customs Enforcement bureau of the Department of Homeland Security.
Throughout his career, he enthusiastically advocated an emergency services training program throughout the whole enchilada – firehouse to hospital, jailhouse to courthouse – pacing a victory lap to the cop shop, all part of one big system, from turning dirt to bricks and mortar – and onward, to the District Attorney’s front door, to catch the chain, the bus, and the daily run to the cotton patch.
Behold, the solution of the new millenium to the age – old problem of how to isolate the anti-social from the hoi polloi, and, by your leave, governor, who’s going to pay for it? We give you the prison-industrial complex, at a big fine price.
To the consternation of fiscal conservatives, the more things change, the more they stay the same. The McLennan County tax rate has made two historical upticks over the past two years; as the corrections line items in the Sheriff’s Office budget tripled, even courthouse security slots at the entryway magnetometers were outsourced to local police departments. Line item contingency coffers drained away like a mixture of blood and molten gold down the pipes of some fancy little ornamental ivory tower palace custom-built to conceal a gaping rupture in a stinking sewer.
The track record is nothing, if not stark.
Harness bulls and plainclothesmen all over the lot can’t help but crow when they point out Lynch has yet to make his first felony arrest.
As a re-election candidate, Lynch sustained an ethics violation in the rarefied atmosphere of the Texas Ethics Commission’s elaborate system of classification and investigation of campaign finance complaints. Most of them wind up on the cutting room floor.
In a contractual agreement, the jail contracting corporation CEC, Inc., paid Lynch at the rate of $2,000 per month to make inspections and file monthly reports on the operations of the Jack Harwell Detention Center, a custom-built, for-profit county lockup erected on a turn-key basis by a subsidiary construction outfit no one had much chance to bid against. The winning contractor had a year to prepare its estimates; the competition had only 30 days of lead time. A public information request yielded the response from Lynch’s office that no reports, or records of any such reports, were to be found. An inquiry at the Treasurer’s Office revealed a total of $144,000 in payments for those reports.
During the confusion of closing the downtown jail at the courthouse when the contractor lost the ICE contract to house undocumented aliens, weekend overcrowding of the McLennan County Jail led to $100,000 in overtime salary payments to Sheriff’s Office corrections officers. It tripled the budget for housing prisoners because of the need to shunt prisoners from the public lockup to the private lockup next door.
During his tenure, Lynch eliminated all in-house training functions for the continuing education of certified peace officers and outsourced them to other providers. He campaigned on the slogan of providing the best Sheriff’s department money can buy.
Reached for comment, Sheriff Parnell McNamara said he intends to continue to send recruits to McLennan County Community College for their initial training to Texas Commission On Law Enforcement (TCOLE) standards.
“It’s a good academy,” said McNamara. “I’m on the advisory board of the MCC Law Enforcement program. I welcome him; I look forward to working with Sheriff Lynch.”
When asked about training and continuing education of certified peace officers in his department, he replied, “We have our own in-house training on firearms and investigations.”
So it goes.
So mote it be.