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Houston Continues Fight Against Southwest Key Baby Jail

Several months ago, we wrote about the proposed baby jail location on Emancipation Avenue, a site that has been fought by the City of Houston and the Houston community. In October, child detention profiteers Southwest Key and millionaire CEO Juan Sanchez sued the City of Houston for more than $8 million in damages, claiming lost revenue based on political targeting. The City’s case is that Southwest Key has simply failed to procure the proper permits, a case supported by protesters at an action of civil disobedience in front of the center in August. After several months in limbo, several new developments have unfolded.

First, Southwest Key has hired not only high-priced lawyers but also a high-priced communications team, headed by none other than former Clinton White House aide Jeff Eller. In the past, Eller has handled Firestone’s PR during its blowout scandal and the GM ignition recall. He also handled an anti-transit campaign in Nashville earlier this year that was a focal point of Koch Brothers-connected dark money interests. Eller has been steadily dropping spin into newspapers in the form of written quotes.

In late October, Southwest Key claims the City of Houston walked away from a settlement discussion, a negotiation the City of Houston claims was confidential and that Southwest Key would have to comply with the permitting process. Shortly after, Southwest Key asked ORR for a time extension on its $3.3 million agreement. ORR granted Southwest Key an extension that will run out in late December.

In spite of hiring Eller, Southwest Key’s questionable management practices have come to light thanks to in-depth investigation and public protest. Recently, Southwest Key called for an “internal review” after a New York Times piece from earlier this month revealed extremely suspicious financial dealings:

“Southwest Key has created a web of for-profit companies — construction, maintenance, food services and even a florist — that has funneled money back to the charity through high management fees and helps it circumvent government limits on executive pay.

The organization, sitting on $61 million in cash as of last fall, has lent millions of dollars to real estate developers, acting more like a bank than a traditional charity. It has opted to rent shelters rather than buy them, an unusual practice that has proved lucrative for shelter owners — who include Mr. Sanchez and the charity’s chief financial officer.

Marcus Owens, the former head of tax-exempt organizations for the Internal Revenue Service under both Republican and Democratic administrations, reviewed Southwest Key’s tax returns for The New York Times. Regulators, he said, seemed to be “asleep at the switch.” Describing the financial dealings of Mr. Sanchez and his colleagues, he said, “I think the word is ‘profiteering.’”

Earlier this week, Southwest Key faced yet another challenge as more than 70 students at one of its Austin charter-track campuses walked out of class in solidarity with the Superintendent, who sought to prevent employee cuts.

If you oppose the proposed baby jail on Emancipation Avenue, let your state rep and state senator know. We have collected their contact information below.

You can also tweet your opposition using the hashtags #nobabyjails and #noSWKey.

Texas State Senators
Texas State Senate District 4
Senator Brandon Creighton
Capitol Phone: (512) 463-0104  EXT E1.606
Phone: (409) 838-9861

Texas State Senate District 6
Senator Sylvia R. Garcia
Capitol Phone: (512) 463-0106  CAP 3E.12
Phone: (713) 923-7575

Texas State Senate District 7
Senator Paul Bettencourt
Capitol Phone: (512) 463-0107  CAP 3E.16
Phone: (713) 464-0282

Texas State Senate District 11
Senator Larry Taylor
Capitol Phone: (512) 463-0111  CAP 3E.10
Phone: (281) 485-9800

Texas State Senate District 13
Senator Rodney Ellis
Capitol Phone: (512) 463-0113   SHB 860
Phone: (713) 236-0306

Texas State Senate District 15
Senator John Whitmire
Capitol Phone: (512) 463-0115  CAP 1E.13
Phone: (713) 864-8701

Texas State Senate District 17
Senator Joan Huffman
Capitol Phone: (512) 463-0117  CAP 1E.15
Phone: (281) 980-3500

Texas State Representatives
Texas State House District 27
Representative Ron Reynolds
Capitol Phone: (512) 463-0494 EXT E2.308

Texas State House District 126
Representative Patricia Harless
Capitol Phone: (512) 463-0496 EXT E2.408
Phone: (281) 376-4114

Texas State House District 127
Representative Dan Huberty
Capitol Phone: (512) 463-0520  EXT E2.408
Phone: (281) 360-9410

Texas State House District 128
Representative Wayne Smith
Capitol Phone: (512) 463-0733  CAP GN.8
Phone: (832) 556-2002

Texas State House District 129
Representative Dennis Paul
Capitol Phone: (512) 463-0734   EXT E2.814
Phone: (281) 488-8900

Texas State House District 130
Representative Allen Fletcher
Capitol Phone: (512) 463-0661
Phone: (281) 373-5454

Texas State House District 131
Representative Alma A. Allen
Capitol Phone: (512) 463-0744
Phone: (713) 776-0505

Texas State House District 132
Representative-Elect Gina Calanni
Email

Texas State House District 133
Representative Jim Murphy
Capitol Phone: (512) 463-0514
Phone: (713) 465-8800

Texas State House District 134
Representative Sarah Davis
Capitol Phone: (512) 463-0389
Phone: (713) 664-7095

Texas State House District 135
Representative-Elect Jon Rosenthal
Email

Texas State House District 137
Representative Gene Wu
Capitol Phone: (512) 463-0492

Texas State House District 138
Representative Dwayne Bohac
Capitol Phone: (512) 463-0727   CAP GS.6
Phone: (713) 460-2800

Texas State House District 139
Representative Jarvis Johnson
Capitol Phone: (512) 463-0554

Texas State House District 140
Representative Armando Walle
Capitol Phone: (512) 463-0924
Phone: (713) 694-8620

Texas State House District 141
Representative Senfronia Paige Thompson
Capitol Phone: (512) 463-0720
Phone: (713) 633-3390

Texas State House District 142
Representative Harold V. Dutton, Jr.
Capitol Phone: (512) 463-0510
Phone: (713) 692-9192

Texas State House District 143
Representative Ana Hernandez
Capitol Phone: (512) 463-0614
Phone: (713) 675-8596

Texas State House District 144
Representative Gilbert Peña
Capitol Phone: (512) 463-0460
Phone: (713) 472-3520

Texas State House District 145
Representative Carol Alvarado
Capitol Phone: (512) 463-0732
Phone: (713) 649-6563

Texas State House District 146
Representative Borris L. Miles
Capitol Phone: (512) 463-0518
Phone: (713) 665-8322

Texas State House District 147
Representative Garnet F. Coleman
Capitol Phone: (512) 463-0524
Phone: (713) 520-5355

Texas State House District 148
Representative Jessica Cristina Farrar
Capitol Phone: (512) 463-0620
Phone: (713) 691-6912

Texas State House District 149
Representative Hubert Vo
Capitol Phone: (512) 463-0568
Phone: (281) 988-0212

Texas State House District 150
Representative Debbie Riddle
Capitol Phone: (512) 463-0572
Phone: (281) 257-4222

#Engage #Educate #Resist

 

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