Friday, 29 July 2011

Prison up for auction.

Debt-burdened Texas town puts its prison on the market


The Dallas Morning News

Newly renovated complex on 30 acres. Almost 95,000 square feet. Concrete block housing, with brick veneer and pitch-seamed metal roofs. Includes a gymnasium and armory, along with furniture, computers, kitchen supplies. And complete with plenty of bars.

Prison bars.

Billed by the auction house as a "unique opportunity to acquire a turn-key medium security detention center," the facility in Littlefield, Texas - empty but with room for 373 inmates - will go to the highest bidder above the $5 million minimum.

While a jail auction is rare and has raised eyebrows, Littlefield's effort to free itself of the Bill Clayton Denton Center is a tale of speculation and ideas gone wrong.

The farming town northwest of Lubbock got into the jail business with expectations that states would pay to store their prisoners in the privately run jail, giving the economy a much-needed boost.

What they got was a slew of operational and financial headaches. The jail was built with an $11 million bond on which the city still owes millions that it is struggling to pay.

Littlefield is just one of a dozen towns across the state under financial duress because the hopeful predictions about bond-financed prisons fell short.

The best thing for Littlefield, said City Manager Danny Davis, "is to get out from under this debt so we can get back to some sort of normalcy."

And it's been a lesson learned, he said.

"Anytime we are signing up for a long-term agreement that looks good right now, we'll know we need to look further down the road," he said.

The market for a 30-acre prison might seem limited, but Jeff Conn, a Lubbock realtor who specializes in detention center facilities, said there is interest from other municipalities needing more space for inmates as well as private detention centers.

He said he knows of about six potential buyers and is confident the city will get the money it needs.

The property is posted on the website of the auctioneers, Williams & Williams Worldwide Real Estate Auctions based in Tulsa.

If the prison goes for $5 million, Littlefield will still owe about $4 million on the property. Davis said that would cut the city's annual bond payments by more than half.

Littlefield officials, hoping to bring jobs and revenue to the area, used bonds in 2000 to build the prison in an old cotton field just outside of town. They hired a private company, GEO Group, to run the jail and find prisoners, believing those contracts would repay the bonds and provide the city with extra revenue.

The center originally was built for juvenile offenders but converted to an adult facility with out-of-state inmates. But trouble abounded over the years, with guards helping prisoners escape and riots resulting in a facility lockdown. Then an inmate suicide two years ago was followed by a lawsuit.

The largest client - the state of Idaho - had enough. It pulled all of its inmates out, citing a budget crunch back home.

Not long after, the GEO Group announced it was leaving. With the prison population declining nationwide, the city wasn't able to find any inmates to fill the cells of the 5-pod detention center.

Since then, the city's bond rating has plunged, and it faces a $65,000-a-month payment. The cotton-growing town has raised property taxes, cut jobs and is running the city on a "bare bones budget" to get some of the money needed, Davis said.

"Nobody's happy when you have to cut services and raise taxes," he said. "It's not a good situation to be in."

Littlefield is not alone. Several other Texas towns that build prisons to be run by private companies have found the prisons to be financial drains.

Grassroots Leadership, a group that works to end for-profit private incarceration, said the Littlefield situation is another sign that for-profit prisons don't work.
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Saturday, 23 July 2011

Hirohito's cigarette box turns up for sale in Cork

AN unusual gift presented to the wife of an American general by the Emperor of Japan after the second World War has unexpectedly turned up at an auction house in West Cork.

Hegarty’s fine art auctioneers in Bandon will tomorrow auction the oriental collection of the late Georgette Ellison, wife of a US General during post-war tours of duty in Asia. The most intriguing lot is a three-piece smoker’s set in silver and lacquer presented to Mrs Ellison by Hirohito who reigned from 1926 to 1989 and is known, since his death in Japan, as the Emperor Showa.

Japan fell under American military occupation following the war but the Emperor was allowed to remain on the throne although his divine status was annulled.

Auctioneer Margaret Hegarty said the smoker’s set, which consists of an ashtray and cigarette box on a matching tray, is estimated at €1,500-€2,500.

Other items from the collection – to be sold with low or no reserves – include Japanese netsuke (miniature sculptures), Satsuma pottery and jade pieces from the Chinese Qing and Han dynasties.

The auction also includes antique furniture, Irish silver and paintings and gets underway to-day, Sunday July 25th, at 4pm at Hegarty’s Auction Rooms, Parnell Business Park, the Bypass, Bandon, Co. Cork.

Wednesday, 20 July 2011

Historic Ibrox seat going up for auction

  A seat from Ibrox stadium believed to date from the 1920s is being auctioned in Glasgow this week.
The oak and cast-iron seat was retrieved when the Glasgow Rangers' ground was being upgraded in the 1970s.
McTear's Auctioneers said it was hoped seat No 258 could fetch up to £300 on Thursday.
The lot has been put in by an anonymous seller. Valuers at the auction house said they quickly realised it was a rare piece of club memorabilia.
Brian Clements, from the auctioneers, said: "Over the years we have sold some fantastic pieces of sports memorabilia, including signed shirts, footballs and even Faberge eggs.
"But I can safely say this is the first time a stadium seat has come to auction.
"When the seller, who has asked to remain anonymous, brought it in, we quickly realised that this was a rare piece of memorabilia from a very important era in Rangers' history.
"I have no doubt it will attract a fair bit of interest at auction."
The furniture and collectables sale will be held at McTear's on Thursday.

The diaries of Nazi war criminal Josef Mengele, are to be sold by auction in the US.

The diaries, written after the end of the Second World War when Mengele had fled to Latin America, contain his philosophical reflections, autobiographical stories and poems written between 1960 and 1975.

Thursday's auction will include some 3,500 pages from "hidden journals" written by the doctor who carried out terrible medical experiments on prisoners at Auschwitz-Birkenau concentration camp.

The items, mostly small, spiral-bound notebooks, are expected to fetch between £185,000 and £247,000 when they go under the hammer at Connecticut-based auctioneers Alexander Autographs.

The company, which specialises in historical manuscripts, said the auction would include an "historically important" lot of 31 manuscripts in various forms, including bound journals.

"All writings are penned in ink in a legible hand, in generally excellent condition," an auction house spokesman said.

"They were seized in 2004 by the police at the home of a German couple with whom he was living in Sao Paulo."

He added they were then given to Mengele's son, Rolf, who only saw his father twice in his life.

About 40% of the writings are autobiographical, tracing Mengele's flight across Europe in the aftermath of the war.

He talks of himself in the third person, referring to himself as "Andreas".

In one commentary, Mengele complains that sexual promiscuity has led "to a dreadful mixing of the races with the northern Europeans... when you start mixing the races, there is a decline in civilisation".

Mengele was a member of the Nazis' elite SS, which ran death camps across occupied Europe.

Based at Auschwitz from 1943, he helped supervise the selection of prisoners on arrival to death camps, sending those considered unfit for slave labour to be gassed with deadly Zyklon B.

He gained his notorious reputation due to his pseudo-medical experiments in the camp.

He fled Europe at the end of the war after Germany's defeat, reaching Argentina at the start of the 1950s.

He then moved to Paraguay in 1961 and then went on to Brazil, where he lived in Sao Paulo and remained uncaptured despite Interpol's best efforts, dying in 1979 at the age of 67.

His death was only confirmed in 1985, after his body was exhumed.

The diaries appeared some time after that.

Saturday, 9 July 2011

40p glasses make £19,000 at auction.

From the Daily Mail:

When a bargain hunter spotted these unusual glasses at a boot sale for 40p each, she bought them on a ‘hunch’. It certainly turned out to be a good one.

For the trio were rare 18th-century examples of work by revered glassmaker William Beilby – and they have just sold at auction for £18,880.

After the boot sale in Portsmouth, the woman, who has not been named, took the glasses to a sale room in Chichester, West Sussex, for an expert opinion.

The anonymous woman apologised to staff if she was about to waste their time, but when they saw what she had brought they soon realised they had a precious load before them.

Dealers and collectors clamoured for the find and after a furious bidding session at Stride and Son auction house saw them go under the hammer for £16,000 pounds.

The winning bidder, who deals in glass, paid a total of £18,880 after all the extra fees were added on.

Mark Hewitt, from auctioneers Stride and Son, said: 'The lady was at a car boot sale and just bought them on a hunch.

'She didn't haggle or anything, she just paid what the person was asking - which was 40p each.

'Then she brought the glasses to us and was a bit embarrassed and said she didn't want to waste our time.

'When I saw them I made sure I put them in a locked cabinet. The lady said that last time she had had a "touch" she had made £800.

'Before the sale she was trying to gauge how excited I was but I didn't give anything away and I think she was a bit shocked when I opened the bidding at £500.

'Then within just a few minutes the bidding got up to 16,000 pounds.

'After we put it on the website it was clear that collectors and dealers thought they were "right".

'They are rare Beilby glass - which is a famous name - and were made at the workshop in Newcastle.

'The person who bought them said afterwards that because they come up so rarely he had to have all three.

'They are museum quality pieces and it just shows that you can pick things up at car boot sales and make money.'

The items were made in about 1765 and fewer than 100 of these armorial glasses are recorded.

His workshop in Newcastle-upon-Tyne produced these three examples with the arms of John Thomas, a churchman from Cumberland.

At the time the glasses were made he was a vicar of St Bride's in London's Fleet Street.

It is thought that the set originally consisted of a set of five - and two others have sold at auction in recent years.