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July 2014

Investigation underway in Diboll roof collapse

The last prisoner who was still hospitalized after suffering an injury in a roof collapse at the Diboll Correctional Center was expected to be released on Wednsday, July 23.

The Diboll Correctional Center was the site of a ceiling collapse Saturday, July 20, 2014.
The Diboll Correctional Center was the site of a ceiling collapse Saturday, July 20, 2014.
The facility, south of Lufkin, is owned by the Management and Training Corporation. 

The roof collaposed at the Diboll Correctional Center on Saturday, July 19 just as prisoners and others were preparing for visitation. The Houston Chronicle reports that a team of engineers and investigators with the Texas Department of Criminal Justice visited the prison on Monday, July 21.

Since the damaged housing unit is not livable, the prisoners normally housed there were transferred to another facility Saturday and will remain there until the damage has been repaired, according to a statement released to the Chronicle. 

Warden David Driskell said he does not want to speculate on what caused the roof to collapse before the TDCJ completes the investigation.

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Family detention will return to Texas at the Karnes Detention Center, southeast of San Antonio

Family detention will return to Texas with the announcement that the Karnes County Civil Detention Center will be used to detain families and children who are seeking refuge at the U.S.-Mexico border. 

The Houston Chronicle reports that ICE spokesman Carl Rusnok said the agency plans to start housing women and children at the center as soon as August.

The colorful facade of the Karnes Council Civil Detention Center.
The colorful facade of the Karnes Council Civil Detention Center.
Linda Brandmiller, a San Antonio immigration attorney, told the Houston Chronicle that Karnes as a "detention center with a smiley face. From the outside, it looks like a high school. It doesn't have the same prison-like exterior that most detention facilities have.

"But make no mistake, it is a prison."

Grassroots Leadership denounced the plans in a statement that reads in part:

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Rep. Henry Cuellar, beneficiary of GEO Group contributions, wants border children deported ASAP

Democratic U.S. Rep. Henry Cuellar drew a rebuke from his colleagues in the Congressional Hispanic Caucus for proposing legislation that would make it easier to deport Central American children who are turning themselves in at the southern border. 

Rep. Henry Cuellar has been under fire for proposals to deport children faster and collecting private prison contributions.
Rep. Henry Cuellar has been under fire for proposals to deport children faster and collecting private prison contributions.
Rep. Cuellar, along with Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas),  proposed legislation to allow unaccompanied migrant children from Central America to leave the U.S. voluntarily rather than go through mandated legal processes — a "voluntary removal" system that is the current standard for children from Mexico and Canada. 

The two Texas lawmakers call it the "Humane Act" and it changes a 2008 law, the William Wilberforce Trafficking Victims Protection and Reauthorization Act, or TVPRA,  to make it easier to deport these children faster, who are mostly from Honduras, Guatemala and El Salvador.

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Roof collapses at MTC-owned Diboll Correctional Center, trapping and injuring prisoners

A suspended ceiling collapsed Saturday at a for-profit private prison in East Texas, injuring several prisoners and trapping several others who needed to be rescued.

The collapse happened in the day room of the Diboll Correctional Center, which is southwest of Lufkin. The facility is operated by the Management and Training Corporation under contract by the Texas Department of Criminal Justice. According to the MTC website, it has a capacity of 518 prisoners. The facility has 136 employees, 97 security guards and 20 non-security personnel. The facility was built in 1995.

The Diboll Correctional Center was the site of a ceiling collapse Saturday, July 20, 2014.
The Diboll Correctional Center was the site of a ceiling collapse Saturday, July 20, 2014.
The Lufkin Daily News reports that one incarcerated person suffered critical injuries and several others suffered non-life threatening injuries. Diboll Police Sgt. Brandan Lovell told the Lufkin Daily News that 87 inmates were in the room at the time of collapse. The collapse sent several prisoners to area hospitals:
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Jack Harwell Detention Center draws protests over conditions inside, Rep. Lloyd Doggett weighs in

The Jack Harwell Det

ention Center in Waco was the site of a protest on July 12. The detention center is operated by private prison company LaSalle Southwest Corrections. 

Protestors came from Waco, Austin, Dallas, and Taylor to deliver know-your-rights materials to the facility after attorneys in Central Texas sounded the alarm overconditions in the center.

MyFox Austin reports

"Protestors said the detention center should not be used to hold ICE detainees.

"I would love to see our local jail, our local law-enforcement abide by the law and then just not even enforce those, because they don't have to," said Waco immigration lawyer Kent McKeever.

U.S. Rep. Lloyd Doggett, (D) TX-35, agrees that detention centers aren't the answer.

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Children fleeing Central America "would actually be a revenue stream" for West Texas city with a shuttered private prison

A West Texas city is looking to get a boost from the humanitarian crisis of Central American children and families who have turned up at the U.S.-Mexico border. 

Officials in the City of Littlefield are asking Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) to send some of the families to their empty private prison, and hoping it will be the end of a years-long debacle that started when the for-profit private prison came to town.

The facility in question, the Bill Clayton Detention Center, has been trouble for the city and taxpayers from the start. It was was built in 2000 as a state prison for juveniles, but the Texas legislature decided to remove juveniles from the facility in 2003. 

The GEO Group operated the facility until 2009, which was housing adults at the time. The facility shut its doors in 2009 after the company lost contracts in to hold prisons there from Idaho and Wyoming.  

Littlefield City Manager Mike Arismendez told KCBD in Lubbock that a contract with ICE could mean having the facility up and running soon to detain the women and children seeking refuge at the border. 

“It would actually be a revenue stream to be able to offset the debt we have on the facility,” Arismendez said.