DALLAS -- Investors in five bond-financed Texas jails are pushing to avert a default by the for-profit projects before the last guaranteed debt service payment in February, officials said.

The aim is for Texas to buy or lease the 500-bed jails as quickly as possible. Lawyers representing bondholders and counties involved in the projects -- financed with $74 million of junk municipals in 1989 -- are aggressively negotiating with the state to bring about just that.

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