State Senator “Pleasantly Surprised” by What He Found at MTC Prison

Utah State Senator Curt Bramble has served in the legislature for 19 years. He’s held many leadership positions including majority leader.

Senator Bramble was also recently the president of the National Conference of State Legislatures which involves more than 7,000 state leaders in all 50 states.

“Look,” says Senator Bramble as he explains the many responsibilities he has as a state senator. “As a legislator, one of the biggest challenges we have is how to deal with the cost of corrections, how do you deal with recidivism? How do you break that cycle?”

So, when Senator Bramble heard about Management & Training Corporation or MTC, a Utah company that operates prisons, he wanted to see what, if anything, MTC was doing to keep inmates from re-offending. He toured MTC’s Sanders Estes Unit in Venus, Texas.

“I was given free reign, without any preconditions,” explains the Senator…”I went there expecting to find problems. I went there looking for problems.”

One of his first stops: a graduation ceremony.

“And it dawned on me that many of those inmates, [that] this may be the very first time that they’ve actually been recognized for something they have set out to accomplish.”

The men were graduating from the Prison Entrepreneurship Program or PEP. And to Senator Bramble’s great surprise.

“It was being run by former inmates. And they were talking about the positive mental attitude and how these guys were being trained.”

But Bramble wasn’t so easily convinced.

“I’ve been in prisons before…And so, I’m thinking maybe they’re giving me the sales pitch on this, so I start talking to some of the inmates…Their stories were all similar: they had found an opportunity to actually gain self-respect, to gain a skill. And in one case, one gentleman said he was granted parole and he asked that his parole be deferred one year because he wanted to finish the program so that he could actually get a job when he came out.”

That man happened to be the volunteer now running the PEP program. But Senator Bramble kept digging.

“And I thought, ‘OK, maybe these are just the cream of the crop. Maybe I’m just getting the dog and pony show and they’re just putting forth their best foot.’ Because I’ve been listening to the media. ‘Private prison, private prisons are bad. So, I’m looking for the squalor. I’m looking for the abuse of prisoners. I’m looking for the prison guards who are clearly incompetent. And I found none of that.”

Next stop was a housing unit.

“We were invited to go in and just talk to the inmates; just mingle with them and talk to them. And so, I did. And every one of them told a very similar tale, very positive, saying that they understood why they were there, that they were looking forward to getting out and thank goodness they were assigned to this particular facility because they could make something of their lives. And that was the message they were giving me.”

And that’s ultimately what impressed Senator Bramble the most—MTC’s focus on rehabilitation programs and improving the lives of the men.

Senator Bramble says he set out to find the truth about MTC’s work in corrections. And while it’s not his role to endorse any entity, he says,

“It is my role to communicate on a fact-finding tour, look, if I would have found just the opposite, I would have been just as direct about the problems…It appears that MTC, again from my observations, I walked away very, very impressed.”

So impressed that Senator Bramble and colleague Representative Vernon Jones of Georgia co-authored a bi-partisan paper titled “Why Contracting for Performance in Prison and Detention Management is Worth a Closer Look”. Click here to view the report.