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
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
Good morning, Sugar Land! As of today, the once-5,400-acre state prison in your midst is no longer. Down for the last decade to a 326-acre core of former Imperial Sugar-owned land near Hwy. 6 and Rte. 90A, the 112-year-old Central Unit shipped out its last prisoners earlier this month; the property was handed over to the state’s General Land Office yesterday. Sugar Land officials are interested in buying the property, but the decision to sell will be up to the 3-member School Land Board, which runs the investments of state’s Permanent University Fund.
Photo: Justin Dehn/Texas Tribune
Opening October 3rd in Sugar Land: A branch of the Houston Museum of Natural Science, smack dab in the center of the former prison farm now known as Telfair. The museum is a rehab of the old Central State Farm Prison building, but it has a better-sounding new address: 13019 University Blvd., at the corner of New Territory Blvd.
Meanwhile, far to the north, HMNS’s Woodlands Xploration Station in the Woodlands Mall is shutting down on September 7th. The Woodlands Children’s Museum next door to it will close a little less than a month later. Going into those vacated spaces: Forever 21.
Photo of new Houston Museum of Natural Science at Sugar Land: HMNS