By CHRISTIN COYNE
Eighteen people were indicted by a Parker County grand jury Thursday on felony charges of bringing or attempting to bring contraband into the Mineral Wells Pre-parole Transfer Facility or possessing the prohibited items inside the facility.
Most of the contraband charges involve illegally bringing or possessing cell phones or cell phone chargers at the facility owned by Corrections Corporation of America and operated for the Texas Department of Criminal Justice.
Five of the indictments involved tobacco, as well, and two men were indicted for drug-related contraband.
According to indictments, many of the alleged offenses occurred two-to-three years ago.
CCA’s contract with the state ends Aug. 31 after the Texas Legislature cut funding and TDCJ made the decision to close the Mineral Wells facility and the CCA-owned Dawson State Jail in Dallas.
The facility had been on legislators’ chopping block for years, with critics saying the state has enough prison beds and money would be better spent elsewhere in the system.
Legislators also cited security and contraband issues at the minimum-security facility that was intended to house up to 2,100 soon-to-be-released inmates.
In an attempt to secure the former military base and stop contraband from being thrown over the fence, CCA placed netting around the top of the prison yard years ago.
A special prosecutor for the state who handles similar cases in other counties typically prosecutes the contraband cases involving the Parker County facility, according to the Parker County District Attorney’s Office.
For the convenience of the prosecutor, who comes the county only periodically, a group of indictments is typically sought at one grand jury session and the cases are all assigned to the same district court in Parker County.
The special prosecutor appointed did not return a call Friday afternoon.