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ACLU Criminal Alien Requirement report: Reeves County Detention Center

The Reeves County Detention Center in Pecos, Texas is the first of the five "criminal alien requirement" (CAR) prisons in Texas covered in an ACLU report released this week that exposes abuses within such facilities. 

The report's findings indicate that men detained at Reeves are denied medical care. The most notable example is the death of Jesus Manuel Galindo, who was placed in solitary confinement after suffering a grand mal seizure in December 2008. Galindo suffered more seizures in solitary and died as a result. A wrongful death suit was filed against Reeves County, the Bureau of Prisons (BOP) and the GEO Group, which was settled in January 2013.

Prisoners at Reeves still report denial of medical services. One prisoner reported that diabetic prisoners must receive insulin treatment at mealtimes, thus forcing them to choose between eating and medical care. 

Following Galindo's death, prisoners rioted and set fire to a recreation center at the prison. Riots are common at Reeves and, a month after Galindo's death, another riot broke out, resulting in two guards being taken hostage and $20 million in damage from a fire set my the detained men. 

Reeves officials also overuse solitary confinement. Prisoners who participated in a petition to protest conditions at Reeves were placed in solitary confinement after being subjected to tear gas and being shot at with rubber bullets. Petition supporters and bystanders spent two days in the SHU (solitary housing unit). Samuel, a 38-year-old Jamaican immigrant, recounts the event: 

“Once everyone was lying down [after the tear-gassing], they cuffed us and took us out and put water on us. I started speaking up, not talking of resistance, but I was saying it’s not fair to punish all...”

The men spent two days in the SHU with four people in two-person capacity cells without pillows or blankets, or soap to wash the tear gas from their bodies.

In fact, experiences like Samuel's are common at Reeves. Other prisoners have reported the overuse of solitary and, in fact, contracts between the GEO Group and Reeves state that ten percent of housing at Reeves be allocated to the SHU. This percentage is almost twice as large as in other BOP facilities. Prisoners have reported that, when the SHU is full, two men sleep on bunks and a third sleeps on the floor. Prisoners often spend months in the SHU without explanation, and one man recounted that "anything" he did could result in time in the SHU.

Dormitories are also overcrowded at Reeves. Prisoners have stated that, despite Reeves' status as a minimum security facility, they must spend fifty minutes of every hour in their bunks. Movement around the unit to the library or to the recreation room is only allowed in the ten minutes at the beginning of every hour. Guards search prisoners after movement between rooms. If prisoners miss the annoucement that movement is allowed, they must wait another hour.  Overcrowding is apparently an incentive for profit. Maximum capacity in GEO's contract with the BOP is 90 percent, and there is a per-prisoner payment policy up to 115 percent capacity. As a result, recreation facilities have been converted into dormitories. Prisoners call these makeshift housing unites are called "chicken coops." The chicken coops contain 42 beds and reportedly smell like feces constantly because they are close to bathroom facilities.  

Overcrowding spills over to the recreation yards as well. There is a large yard and smaller yard, with the small yard intended to accommodate forty people. It is often used by 400 people at a time. In addition, the Port-A-Potties in the yard have not been replaced in four years, and many prisoners report that the contents have "splashed up" on them. 

This is not the first time Reeves has been on our radar. Reeves is mentioned in NPR's feature on for-profit incarceration and the ACLU's previous involvement in ligitgation regarding Reeves County's refusal to disclose documents regarding prisoner deaths, staffing and medical care.