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GEO Prisoner Riots Could Cost Reeves County More Than $1 Million

The two riots in past two months at the GEO Group's Reeves County Detention Center that have injured inmates, resulted in guards being taken hostage, and destroyed much of the the facility were apparently sparked by lack of medical care at the facility and several inmate deaths. Now, the county may be on the hook for over $1 million in repairs to the prison, according to an article for KRISTV.com ("West Texas prison riots cost county $1.1 million),

A pair of destructive prison riots in the span of two months at a county-owned but privately managed West Texas prison have cost more than $1.1 million in repairs, according to Reeves County records.

The Reeves County Commission unanimously approved more than $948,000 in repair bills from the riots during a regular meeting Monday and previously OK'd about $320,000 in repair costs.

Reeves County Judge Sam Contreras said it may be some time before officials know the total cost of the riots. The first incident was sparked by an inmate's death in December, and the second incident erupted Jan. 31. But insurance officials have estimated its repairs could exceed $20 million, Contreras said.

"They said we won't know until all the bids come in," Contreras said Wednesday.

In the latest incident, which relatives of inmates said was sparked by poor medical care and other conditions inside the sprawling prison complex, inmates caused widespread damages, even setting fire to one building.

Contreras said two recreation buildings suffered substantial damage in the second riot and one may be demolished.

The Reeves County Detention Center is owned by the county, but Boca Raton, Fla.-based GEO Group Inc., manages the facility that houses about 3,000 federal criminal immigrant inmates. The American Civil Liberties Union has called for a federal probe of the compound.

In fact, no state agency can enter the facility to inspect it. The Texas Commission on Jail Standards, the agency which until the passage of HB 3517 in 2003 had oversight of county-owned facilities holding federal prisoners, is charged with helping counties avoid liability problems. Adan Muñoz, the head of TCJS, expressed support for reversing 3517 at Monday's meeting of the Appropriations Subcommittee on Criminal Justice. As Nick posted last week,

Expanding TCJS to additional county-owned facilities like Reeves would force the affected prisons to meet basic minimum standards set for other county-owned jails in Texas, positively impacting public safety by decreasing riots and hopefully eliminating hostage situations, and better protecting guards
by forcing observation of a 48-1 inmate-staff ratio. It would also insulate Reeves County from some of the liability for problems at the facility.

It would also hopefully eliminate some of the atrocious conditions we continue to hear from families with loved ones detained at places like Reeves. For background information on the Reeves situation, see our previous coverage:

Family Members Protest GEO Group in Reeves County, February 14, 2009

Reeves County Denies Access to GEO Prison to Attorney Juan Guerra, February 12, 2009

Reeves County Detention Center on Fire Again, February 6, 2009

Second Riot in Two Months Leaves Injuries, Significant Damage, February 4, 2008

Riots and Mysterious Deaths at GEO's Reeves County facility, December 22, 2008