• The Limestone County Detention Center, shown here from several years ago, is being emptied of its inmates again since there have not been enough to justify the utility bills and staff costs. County Judge Daniel Burkeen said this is only a temporary move, and the facility remains certified and ready for inmates if a contract may be found. Journal file photo

Limestone prison to empty – for now

By Roxanne Thompson, Staff Writer

LaSalle Corrections, the company that operates the Limestone County Detention Center, which is the county-owned prison, is moving the inmates and staff from the facility to other prisons they operate for the foreseeable future. 

Rumors about the change swirled Tuesday, after some LaSalle staff members were notified of the change, but LaSalle itself refused comment when contacted. 

County Judge Daniel Burkeen said Tuesday that the prison is not closing down.

“They just don’t have a population right now, so they’re trying to wind down expenses until a population comes along,” he said. “They’re waiting on the federal government, their budget and all that process. They’re trying to use the staff somewhere else, some over in Waco and other places. LaSalle has to just save costs here until they get a better population.” 

He said the county wants to keep the facility open and certified, noting that the prison just got re-certified after the Texas Jail Commission made a surprise inspection of the jail and prison. 

Burkeen said he was assuming that all inmates would be removed and said the inmates now there were only those being held for Johnson County.  

“For 60-70 inmates, it’s not cost effective for (LaSalle), or for us, to keep that whole facility open for just a few inmates,” he said. 

Burkeen said the planned repairs would continue. 

“They just finished fixing the stuff for the Jail Commission to keep it certified, and keep the place up and ready to go,” he said. “It’s just having a population that’s worth turning on all the lights in there and having all the staff and all.”

As for any future contracts, nothing definite is in sight. 

“Our best hope is the federal government, when they’re going to want some more beds, we think,” Burkeen said. “They’re just working out their budget stuff, so we’re kind of waiting on that.”

He wasn’t sure when this new move takes effect. 

“It’s just a general plan,” he said. “LaSalle does the day-to-day stuff out there. I don’t know when exactly anything’s going to come out. I know they let some of the staff know. They don’t want to let anybody go, just move them over to Waco and use them over there ’til things pick up here.”

The LCDC lost its long-term contract to house federal inmates in June 2013. Since then the county has struggled to find other contracts to house inmates to replace the income it had come to rely upon. It had remained empty until a few inmates started being received beginning around December 2016. LaSalle Corrections has worked with Limestone County for the past year to get the prison in condition to re-open, but the inmates they have received have been few and short term. 

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