POST, Texas — Garza County Judge Lee Norman announced Monday the Giles W. Dalby Correctional Unit would transition from a federal prison into a county jail, as part of an effort to prevent a closure of the county’s largest employer.

“It will continue as it began – as a county jail,” Judge Norman said. “It is described as one of the best for its age, well-designed, air-conditioned and it well-fits the need of jails. The last customer, the [U.S.] Bureau of Prisons has excess beds at this time, but the state jails really need these beds. Hence, we’re talking now with our Texas friends in the county jails.”

The Dalby unit holds 565 inmates and employs more than 200 people. After the Bureau of Prisons announced its intention to dissolve its contract with the facility in February, regional and state leaders coordinated to save those jobs and ensure the county could maintain the prison’s stream of tax revenue.

“For them to lose that would lose valuable families and jobs that mean an economic opportunity to grow and stay home in Post, Texas,” Executive Director of the South Plains Association of Governments Tim Pierce said. “[Garza County] had the forethought to do this 20 years ago when they realized if we don’t do something to create and retain jobs in our community, they’re going to go away.”

The facility’s employees would need to be retrained to earn certification as a county jailer, and the facility itself will need to be renovated to fulfill the requirements of the Texas Commission on Jail Standards. County leaders hoped to complete those changes by the end of June. SPAG will provide the jailer training through the regional law enforcement academy they have operated since the 1970s.

Once the transition is complete, the facility would have the potential to almost double in capacity, offering 1,096 beds to other counties.

“They really need the beds,” Judge Norman said. “We do have large county jails knocking on our door. They’re ready to load the buses.”

This change is due in part to a major shift in federal policy. In January 2021, President Biden signed an executive order directing the Department of Justice to not renew contracts with private prisons. But county leaders say the February exit was sudden.

“When I talk to [Congressman Jodey Arrington], we are having a difficult time getting answers,” Judge Norman said.

Judge Norman thanked state leaders in the legislature and the Governor’s office, who are also working to secure funding for the facility to make the transition.

“We promised the judge that any impediments he may find from the state standpoint we would help overcome,” said Matt Crow, District Director for State Rep. Dustin Burrows.