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January 2017

Prisoner uprising stopped in Brackettville

A prisoner uprising at a private-prison in Brackettville was stopped with no serious incidents, reports the San Antonio Express-News.

Officials at the Kinney County Detention Center, which is operated by for-profit prison company Community Education Centers (CEC), said that the uprising was quelled without any serious incident, although officials from U.S. Marshals, Border Patrol, and Kinney County Sheriff were called in. CEC operates the prison for the U.S. Marshals, who detain about 400 prisoners at the facility.

A spokesperson from CEC said that about 60 prisoners refused to leave the recreation area and return to their cells, protesting the earlier removal of another prisoner. The warden locked down the unit & then used force and tear gas to disperse the prisoners. According to the Kinney County sheriff, no one was hurt on either side.

This is not the first uprising that has happened in the Kinney County prison. In 2008, another riot required the facility to be put on lockdown. Over the years, CEC has also been subject to multiple lawsuits, including over the deaths of prisoners in their custody.

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Former juvenile facility may not be empty much longer

The Port Arthur News reports that the Jefferson County Commissioners Court approved a request for proposals to develop the Al Price State Juvenile Correctional Facility, which is currently vacant.

In December, Corrections Corporation of America (which has since rebranded itself as “CoreCivic”)  addressed the Jefferson County Commissioners Court during a workshop, and will submit a bid to turn the facility into a “secure” facility aimed at reducing recidivism in adults with substance abuse disorders. They were one of two groups who spoke to the court about potential use of the facility. Four to five groups are now interested in the property. All of the interested groups want to open substance abuse treatment rehabilitation facilities.

The facility was closed in 2011 and the county cited a reduced budget and a significantly lower youth population as key reasons to close the facility. A charter school from Dallas had leased the building but never paid for the utilities which led to the contract being canceled.

County Judge Jeff Branick said that any interested parties would first relieve the county of the burden of paying the utilities. The facility also needs maintenance work done, with the HVAC, lights, and alarms needing to be repaired. The judge said that the county will not help any bidders with upfront costs.

2 private prison guards indicted in Texas

Two ex-guards at a private immigrant detention facility were indicted today in San Antonio, reports KVIA ABC-7.

A federal grand jury indicted Barbara Jean Goodwin, accusing her of having sex with a detainee between February and August of 2016. If found guilty, she faces up to 15 years in prison. The grand jury also accused Ray Alexander Barr of providing methamphetamine and alcohol to prisoners on December 27. If found guilty, he could get up to 20 years in prison.

Both Goodwin and Barr were guards at the Central Texas Detention Facility, located in San Antonio. The facility is run by the GEO Group, which is a private company that operates immigrant detention facilities for U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

This is not the first controversy that has struck the Central Texas Detention Facility. In 2010 a prisoner was found unresponsive in his cell, and an apparent drug overdose was the cause of death. The incident led to the GEO Group being the subject of a lawsuit alleging that a guard had smuggled in heroin that led to the overdose.  

New transgender unit in Texas detention center raises concerns

A new detention center in Texas that contains a separate unit for transgender inmates has activists concerned, reported Public Radio International.

The Praireland Detention Center, located in Alvarado Texas, is expected to hold about 700 migrants, with a separate pod for 36 transgender migrants as well. It is operated by Emerald Correctional Management, a private prison company that will run the detention center on a five-year contract. The city of Alvarado will then have a chance to extend the contract if they wish.

Activists are opposed to the new detention center because they fear poor treatment and abuse of transgender inmates in the pod. Activists reference the Santa Ana Jail in California, where transgender inmates did not receive their hormone therapy medication on time and dealt with delays dealing with the transfer of their medical records. There were also reports of sexual assaults in the form of unlawful and degrading strip searches, as well as guards telling the transgender inmates to “use their male voices” and to act more “like a male.”

Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) released a statement in 2015 saying they are committed to upholding the health, safety, and welfare of all transgender inmates.

Those in favor of the new detention center say that it will create 200 jobs in Alvarado.

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Two former private prison guards plead guilty to bribery

Two former private prison guards pleaded guilty to charges of bribery from their time working at the Willacy County Regional Detention Facility, reports CBS 4 News.  

Last November, Stephen Salinas and Harry Cordero were arrested by the U.S. Marshals for accepting bribes from prisoners in return for bringing alcohol and cell phones into the prison. Cordero pleaded guilty on December 21, with his sentencing hearing to be held on March 27. Salinas pleaded guilty on January 3, and will receive his sentencing on April 11. Both men face three to 10 years in prison.

Salinas and Cordero both worked at the Willacy County Regional Detention Facility, a private prison operated by Management and Training Corporation (MTC), based in Utah. The facility was originally under contract with Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) to hold undocumented immigrants who were awaiting deportation proceedings. MTC then lost its' contract with ICE in 2011 due to physical and sexual assaults by the guards on prisoners. It was then used by the Federal Bureau of Prisons, until it was shut down in 2015 following a prisoner uprising that essentially destroyed the facility. The uprising  followed poor medical conditions and neglect MTC at the facility. Reports in the aftermath suggested that guards instigated the incident.