Reeves County in negotiations with BOP to keep prison open

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REEVES COUNTY -- Three weeks ago, the Reeve's County Detention Center announced it would be shutting down two of its three units after losing a bidding contract to house prisoners.

Now the fate of the third facility remains up in the air.

On Monday, county commissioners met in executive session to discuss their next move on how to keep the last remaining unit’s doors open.

As a team, the county judge, commissioners, attorneys and even financial advisors are working to see how they can keep the prison open for business and its employees with jobs.

Over $142 million - that's how much it cost the county to build the detention center, according to the county auditor.

The county now has to figure out if they can afford to keep it running.

“With the $50 million in debt we have, we have got to try to keep a positive cash flow, so we don't get into a further debt trying to keep the prison open,” said Commissioner Paul Hinojos. “We also want to keep the employees employed, so it's a very tough situation.”

Commissioners voted Monday to move forward with using GEO Group to help them negotiate a bridge contract with the Bureau of Prisons.

This contract would allow the prison to keep its remaining unit open for an additional year.

“We’re at a crucial point right now where it’s a bidding process again, where we have to come up with a pier diem per inmate that BOP would accept,” Hinojos explained.

If an agreement isn’t reached, Hinojos has a backup plan.

"I'm speaking for myself, but I think the best thing we could do is sell the prison,” said Hinojos. “If we sell it someone's going to buy it, and they are going to want to immediately get prisoners there so they can make money off their investment, which in turn would employ people of Reeves County. So it could be a positive thing to the county."

Another option would be to transport inmates in from other states and government agencies.

“The main thing is trying to keep the people employed for a year,” said Hinojos. “In a year and a half there will be other contracts up, and that’s when we can go ahead and bid again with BOP to try and get R1, R2, and R3 filled.”

R1, R2 and R3 are the three units within the prison.

If the bridge contract goes in the county’s favor, there will be job openings in R3 -- the remaining open prison unit.

Hinojos says the prison has benefited their community for many years.

Besides providing hundreds of jobs, it’s also brought in around $4 million each year which supplements resident’s taxes.

If for some reason they aren’t awarded the contract, Hinojos says they would make sure that the remainder of their debt wouldn’t fall on tax payers.

The county should find out within the coming week or two whether or not they’re awarded the bridge contract.