“What happens if you privatize prisons is that you have a large industry with a vested interest in building ever-more prisons.” -- Molly Ivins, 2003

Grasping at straws, Littlefield prison seeks California prisoner contract?

We've covered the plight of the abandoned Bill Clayton Detention Center in Littlefield for many years.  The facility — originally operated by private prison corporation GEO Group — jumped into the media in 2008 after an Idaho prisoner housed at the West Texas facility committed suicide after reportedly spending more than a year in solitary confinement and a subsequent investigation led Idaho to pull its prisoners from the facility.  

GEO Group then abandoned the facility, leaving the city of Littlefield holding the hefty debt that it had floated the constructed the facility in the first place.  The situation got so bad that the city attempted to auction off the facility — omplete with a fast-talking auctioneer — but the sale eventually fell through.

The city has subsequently tried several interim private operators and attempted to win contracts from the Texas Department of Criminal Justice, a county in New Mexico, and as recently as last week to detain refugee children apprehended on the border. 

Now comes news that Littlefield may be shopping the facility to a private company from California to incarcerate people convicted of sex crimes in the facility.  According to KCDB ("Littlefield considers bid to house sex offenders in vacant prison," August 4th):

"City Manager Mike Arismendez said that the city was contacted by a California company working to secure a bid to house sex offenders in Texas and the company wants to use the Littlefield prison.

Last month, Arismendez began speaking with authorities about possibly housing illegal immigrants at the vacant prison and Arismendez said that the new bid doesn't mean that talks to house immigrants are over.

But, he said only one group will be housed at the prison. 'I'm kind of pushing all these balls up the hill and whichever ball gets to the top is the one we're probably looking at,' Arismendez said."

It's unclear from the article whether the City is attempting to win a contract from the state of Texas or the state of California to incarcerate people convicted of sex offenses, but it would seem unlikely that Texas is seeking additional prison capacity given its move to close two private prisons last legislative session.  California, however, ships nearly 9,000 prisoners to out-of-state private prisons — all of which are operated by Corrections Corporation of America.  The practice has been widely denounced as bad for prisoner rehabilitation and reentry practices, including by Grassroots Leadership, my organization, in a report last year.   

We'll keep you updated on developments from Littlefield.

As family detention begins at Karnes, T. Don Hutto is the site of a protest

About 40 women and children arrived the morning of August 1 at the Karnes County detention center near San Antonio. Another bus was expected that afternoon. GEO protest signGEO protest sign

The Karnes detention center is operated by the GEO Group, a for-profit private prison company that was recently the target of hunger strikes by immigrant detainees in its custody three times in two facilities this year. The Karnes County detention center was was swiftly emptied of its current occupants to make way for women and children who have fled Central America. 

The newly-converted family detention center can house up to 532 people at a cost of $140 a day, according to the Houston Chronicle. 

Enrique Lucero, field office director for U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement told the Chronicle that while each case will vary, officials are planning an average stay of 23 days per family, underlining concerns raised by many attorneys that due process for those seeking asylum is being undermined. Lucero also admitted to USA Today that the family detention and deportation were being used to send a message. "After your immediate detention and due process, there's every likelihood you'll be returned to your country," Lucero said. 

KSAT San Antonio reports that there were no protestors at Karnes as the first buses arrived. However, the T. Don Hutto detention center in Taylor did see protestors on Saturday, August 9. The protest commemorated the 5th anniversary of the end of family detention at the T. Don Hutto detention center. About 50 people lined the street across from the detention center to protest, play music and screen a film about the practice of family detention. 

The protestors there vowed to go to Karnes next. 

Two buses are expected to arrive at Karnes daily, with a total of about 75 more women and children expected every day for the coming weeks.

24-year-old immigrant dies after being held at GEO Group detention center in Laredo

Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) has released a statement that 24 year old immigrant from El Salvador has passed away at a Laredo hospital after being held at the GEO Group's Rio Grande Detention Center in that city.  According to the ICE release:

"Welmer Alberto Garcia-Huezo, 24, was declared deceased Aug. 3. 

Garcia-Huezo was apprehended June 25 by U.S. Customs and Border Protection’s (CBP) Border Patrol near Harlingen, Texas. Two days later, he was transferred to ICE custody and taken to Rio Grande Detention Center in Laredo. 

On July 6, Garcia-Huezo became ill and was immediately transferred from ICE custody to the Laredo Medical Center (LMC). LMC hospital staff initially diagnosed him with cardiac arrest. A medical examiner will review the case regarding the cause of death."

The RGDC recently underwent an expansion and added capacity for ICE detainees in addition the detainees from the United States Marshals, themselves often immigrants under criminal prosecution for an immigration violation.  We will keep you posted on any developments from this story. 

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.

"I'm not the expert in that. We do have a team TDCJ officials who actually owns this building and they're evaluating it and they're here today inspecting, and hopefully, we'll come up with a plan to get it repaired," Driskell told KTRE Channel 9.

Eighty-five prisoners are in another facility until repairs at Diboll can be completed. 

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