Long before Tuesday’s vote of 4-1 in Commissioners Court to end the Taylor-based T. Don Hutto Residential Center contract with Immigration and Customs Enforcement and CoreCivic, Inc. (formerly Corrections Corporation of America), much has been written in newspapers and more disseminated through social media concerning this facility.
Why do we have it in Williamson County? Well its history is a circuitous, disjointed story.
Jose Orta, past president of the League of United Latin American Citizens Council in Taylor and an advocate for immigrants, said, “This facility sits on land (Welch St.) originally owned cooperatively by Mexican workers before the 1950s. Denied a place in town to park their trucks during cotton season, the workers pooled their wages to purchase the land, which also became a place to congregate and hold fiestas. Part of this land became Hidalgo Park.”
Between the 1980s and 1990s, Orta said the workers were unable to pay the property taxes and donated the land to the local Catholic Church, St John Vianney, with the understanding that the land would be parish property. Orta explained that the Archdiocese actually owned the land, and in 1995, sold part of it for revenue to CoreCivic, a private prison company.
County records show that in 1995, CoreCivic sold the land to a new subsidiary, Taylor Detention Center Corporation, to build a private minimum-security prison. CoreCivic bought back the prison the following year at the end of July.
In July 1997, the prison became the T. Don Hutto Correctional Facility, named after one of the company’s founders. According to Orta, in March 2004, CoreCivic announced it was closing TDH, citing low inmate demand in the region. This was one of several times TDH would be “mothballed” as CoreCivic sought prisoners to house.