Houston Co. private facility housing juveniles to shut down at end of month

CROCKETT, TX (KTRE) - A Houston County official has confirmed a private company which houses juvenile delinquents will be temporarily shut down.

"I'm in shock over it," said Houston County Judge Erin Ford. "I'm upset, I'm mad, I'm frustrated."

Ford said because the state will not send transfers to the facility, Cornerstone will shut down with no planning date to re-open.

"We hired officers from the sheriff's office," Ford said. "We hired local teachers to educate the juveniles there, and there are service contracts with the facility with local contractors. It's an economic blow I think will take a long time to recover from."

Cornerstone took over the facility after the state shut down the Davy Crockett Regional Juvenile Center.

According to a July KTRE report, the federal government had inquired with Cornerstone about housing illegal immigrants at the facility. However Cornerstone was not interested in doing so.

Right now, the facility is housing just 15 juveniles, sent through private contracts. The state has not sent any transfers.

"I have been on the phone today with the governor's office," Ford said. "I hope they can intervene. My fear is that this will be a big impact on the area and those inside the facility."

Judge Ford has not been the only official to make a call to the governor's office.

"I have reached out to the governor's office and asked governor Perry and his staff to directly intervene," said State Representative Trent Ashby. "For me this is real simple, The agency wants to house offenders there and the board of directors of this state agency should not be bowing to this political pressure."

Ashby said the political pressure is coming from State Senator John Witmire, who does not want private facilities to handle juveniles that have been handed over to the state.

KTRE reached out to Witmire's office but was told he would not have time to talk to our reporter today.

Cornerstone President Joe Newman said that the facility will continue to look for more private contracts.

"We do not have an exact closing date yet," Newman said. " We have to make sure we have something set up for the 15 current juveniles."

Newman said that the estimated 30 employees were notified last Wednesday about the decision and will be laid off.

"If we do open back up, those employees will take priority in the hiring process," Newman said.

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