ANOTHER IMPORTANT HISTORICAL SITE IN HOUSTON THAT DESERVES RECOGNITION The account may be a tad more florid, but Harbeer Sandhu’s satirical tale of an inmate-turned-entrepreneur’s plan to create a Houston museum dedicated to the private prison industry is only slightly more bizarre than the true story behind the birth of the Corrections Corporation of America, the world’s largest for-profit prison operator, in the still-operating Olympic Motel at 5714 Werner St. (less than a half-mile down I-45 from Gallery Furniture). Fences, barbed wire, and iron bars went up on the former hot-sheet motel in early 1984 to create the world’s first for-profit private prison, a detention center for 87 undocumented immigrants. Much has changed in the private prison industry since those humble feeder-road beginnings, where several detainees were able to escape by dislodging the air-conditioning units and climbing out through the holes. [Free Press Houston; previously on Swamplot] Photos: Harbeer Sandhu
Like the Houstonaire Motor Inn, the Colonel Sanders’ Inn, and the Ramada Inn before it, the Greenway Inn and Suites on the south side of Hwy. 59 between Kirby Dr. and Buffalo Speedway is only a memory now. But it took more than a name change to off it: This redo is final. Thanks to a reader, we have these postcard-ready images from the final checkout proces over the weekend to remember it by. The buildings at 2929 Southwest Fwy. were built in 1965.
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GIGGLING CO-FOUNDERS OF NATION’S LARGEST PRIVATE PRISON FIRM RECALL HIJINX BEHIND THE CONVERSION OF HOUSTON’S OLYMPIC MOTEL TO IMMIGRANT DETENTION CENTER And that motel is still standing, says a rep from Corrections Corporation of America; you can drive by the history yourself at 5714 Werner Rd. — just north, incidentally, of Independence Heights. Of course, the motel doesn’t seem to be taking reservations; the phone has been disconnected. But if you can’t book a room in the building, you can watch these fellas — CCA founders Tom Beasley and Don Hutto — reminisce about it. Though CCA’s practices have been called into question recently by Grassroots Leadership and Hair Balls, you wouldn’t know it from the fondness with which Beasley and Hutto tell the story of flying to Houston on New Year’s Eve in 1982, seeing the motel sign, and fixing up the place for the INS. It was quite a turnaround: Just a few weeks later, on Super Bowl Sunday, Hutto says, the facility was open, processing “87 undocumented aliens” its very first day. You can watch the video here. [Hair Balls; Grassroots Leadership; CCA] Video still: CCA