Importantly, in a year when most of Texas' private prison contracts are up for renewal and costs are likely to increase, "The Department did not maintain documentation to justify its decision to renew provider contracts." That seems like a pretty big deal, especially since TDCJ responded that it agreed with the critique. Specifically,
For the contract renewals for 16 providers that auditors reviewed, the supporting documentation showed that the Department based its contract renewal decisions on management’s review and approval of the requests to renew a contract, and it did not include specific information or factors related to a provider’s contract compliance or performance history. ...And since they didn't gather the information in the first place, now that the contracts are up for renewal there's no way to go back and fill that gap.
The lack of established performance-based criteria in the Department’s contract renewal process increases the risk that the Department may renew a contract with a provider that is operating facilities or programs with a history of poor performance.
It's also not clear, according to the audit, who is overseeing which parts of these contracts at TDCJ and whether their efforts are coordinated well enough:
The Department did not clearly define the roles and responsibilities of its three divisions that oversee providers that operate substance abuse treatment programs.That's too many cooks hovering over the stew pot, none of whom appear to be engaging in data-driven analyses of contract compliance.
Although the [Private Facilities Contract Monitoring and Oversight] Division is recognized by the Department as the contract monitoring entity over substance abuse treatment program providers, the Division’s role is limited to monitoring a provider’s compliance to certain contract requirements. The Rehabilitation Programs Division and the Parole Division are responsible for monitoring the quality of the substance abuse treatment programs. However, the monitoring relationships among the divisions are not defined and documented to ensure that the monitoring activities are efficiently coordinated and communicated among the divisions.
This report provides further fodder for my contention that TDCJ should decline to renew some of these private contracts in light of declining prisoner numbers and the current budget crisis - they're going to cost more and TDCJ apparently doesn't know what they're getting for the money.
Hat tip: Texas Watchdog.