First, it's kind of a sad state of affairs on Texas' economy (yes, Rick Perry, it is), when not just small towns, but a metropolitan area like Waco talks about jail marketing, specifically as part of rehabbing an old downtown jail out of use for a few years.
Why? Hoping for federal jail contracts plus overflow from elsewhere, even though, among state-level inmates, the trend finally seems to be toward a drop, or at least, no more rises. The talk of a warm-weather increase in inmates doesn't wash here.
And, as Texas Prison Bidness notes, this is a road that both McClennan County and LaSalle have already been down before. Add in a "tough on crime" and "hang em high" district attorney, Abel Reyna, at the county level, and, if a federal contract or two doesn't materialize, I'm sure the old DA will get tougher yet on crime.
And, LaSalle doesn't have a stellar track record elsewhere, either. (I was in Burnet County when this went down.)
The bottom-line fact is that the Harwell Center itself was a spec-built project, its size being in part a gamble on getting contracts to house prisoners from elsewhere. Well, as I just noted, those days, if not coming to an end, are likely at least on the decline.
Related to that? Let's get back to that word "economy."
Even in Texas' metropolitan areas, if you're not a really big metro, or not in the oil patch, the recovery hasn't fully been happening yet.
Waco's unemployment rate is about at state average, so, it's ahead of small towns but trails some other areas. And, not a lot of the recovery has involved a lot of higher-pay jobs.
And, after the oil patch, prison expansion arguably was a part of Rick Perry's "Texas miracle" in the first place.