Liberty County looking for new jail contractor

Liberty County Sheriff Bobby Rader (left) and County Attorney Matthew Poston (pictured in this file photo from 2018) will work with county commissioners as the County transitions to operating the jail. The current jail contractor, The GEO Group, is not seeking a contract renewal.

The GEO Group is not seeking a renewal of its contract with Liberty County to manage the county jail. The contract is set to expire this September.

The GEO Group, based in Boca Raton, Fla., has dealt with a high turnover in staff at the county jail, with some employees being arrested for relationships with prisoners or bringing in contraband items, so there were no surprised reactions from county commissioners and Liberty County Sheriff Bobby Rader when Liberty County Judge Jay Knight made the announcement during the April 13 commissioners court meeting.

“Sheriff, that doesn’t surprise you a bit, does it?” Knight asked Rader, who was participating in the meeting via Zoom.

Knight said the County has a fairly good idea of how much another jail contract will cost based on the figures it received when The GEO Group took over after the former jail contractor CEC made its exit.

“Being the times we are in right now, I think it would be good to go ahead and start the RFP process, so we will have 60 days, 90 days at the most, to review the RFPs,” Knight said.

An RFP is a request for proposals. The County will have to run public notices announcing its intention to seek RFPs, but Knight isn’t optimistic that many companies will be interested in the contract.

“I have a feeling we will only have a couple of bidders. We might only have one bidder,” he said.

Should the County be unable to find a contractor for the jail, its operation may be forced upon the sheriff’s office. Sheriff Rader has said previously that in order for his department to operate the jail properly, the County will have to come up with significant funding to buy supplies to run the jail. This equipment includes uniforms, transport vans, shackles, kitchen supplies, bedding, clothing for prisoners, toiletries, and benefits and salaries for the additional staff.

After the meeting, Rader said one of the biggest challenges, should the County take over the jail operation, will be contracting with a local doctor or medical group to provide the medical services for inmates.

“A lot of doctors don’t want the liability,” Rader said.

Commissioners voted in favor of seeking RFPs for the jail contract.

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Before creating Bluebonnet News in 2018, Vanesa Brashier was a community editor for the Houston Chronicle/Houston Community Newspapers. During part of her 12 years at the newspapers, she was assigned as the digital editor and managing editor for the Humble Observer, Kingwood Observer, East Montgomery County Observer and the Lake Houston Observer, and the editor of the Dayton News, Cleveland Advocate and Eastex Advocate. Over the years, she has earned more than two dozen writing awards, including Journalist of the Year.

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