Two prisoners have been reported dead in a single week at the privately operated Liberty County Jail.
According to reports, the body of 57-year-old Beverly Mooring was found “in medical distress and non-responsive in a detox cell” on April 15. She was later pronounced dead at the Liberty-Dayton Regional Medical Center.
Three days later the sheriff’s office received notification that 32-year-old Jeremy Keith Shomo was found dead in his cell after he allegedly hanged himself with a shoelace attached to a shower hook. Shomo’s case is currently under investigation by Sheriff’s Sgt. Chris Ungles and the Texas Rangers.
The fate of Liberty County Jail, managed by private company Community Education Centers (CEC), is currently under debate. The county hired a firm to consult on whether it should continue its partnership with CEC to run the jail. The firm, MGT of America, Inc., told Commissioners back in February that the way to save money was to reduce the jail's population to allow for staffing cuts.
Time to decide is running out. The county’s contract with CEC expires at the end of the month.
Three people were sentenced this week in connection to what KFYO News Talk Radio in Lubbock is calling "prison smuggling ring" at the Big Spring Correctional Center (BSCC). The three include a former GEO Group employee.
Eva Bermea, who was working for GEO as a recreational specialist at Big Spring, was found guilty of smuggling tobacco and creatine to inmate Jonas Cruz, 34, who was selling the products to other inmates. Bermea, 42, was sentenced to three years probation, eight months of which she will serve under house arrest. Cruz had two years added to his 17-year sentence for methamphetamine distribution, to be served concurrently.
Cruz and Bermea also pleaded guilty to bribery of public officials and aiding and abetting.
The third party, Kami Nicole Bennet, 32, who recieved money from Cruz’s brother and packaged the contraband, was sentenced to one year probation after pleading guilty to misprision of a felony and superseding information.
Big Spring Correctional Center is a "Criminal Alien Requirement" prison for immigrants contracted by the Federal Bureau of Prisons (BOP) to for-profit, private prison corporation the GEO Group. Big Spring was recently in the news and was covered here by Texas Prison Bidn'ess blogger Marlon Saucedo over complaints from prisoners and their families about a lack of medical care in the prison.
KFYO reports that neither the BOP nor GEO Group have returned their reporter's calls.
BOP operates 12 CAR prisons, all of which are contracted out to private prison companies. As of earlier this year, there were 13 CAR prisons, but an inmate uprising at the Willacy County Correctional Center left the facility uninhabitable and BOP canceled that contract with Management and Training Corporation (MTC) and moved the prisoners to other facilities around the country.
KRGV.com reports that the warden is the last Management and Training Corporation (MTC) employee left at the Willacy County correctional facility.
MTC laid off nine staff members on April 17 after an uprising there two months ago left the facility uninhabitable and the Bureau of Prisons canceled MTC's contract for the federal prison for immigrants.
Officials told KRGV.com that the cleanup is complete, and there will be an effort to try and reopen the facility. A total of 363 employees at the prison were laid off. All 2,800 prisoners were moved to other federal facilities.
According to News West 9, a hunger strike broke out at the Reeves County Detention Center on March 4. Prisoners and their families say they were put into solitary confinement as retaliation for talking to an attorney.
The wife of a prisoner at Reeves said her husband was among those placed in solitary. "They're punishing them. Those who spoke with a lawyer, or were wanting to speak with one, they put them in solitary confinement," she said.
William McBride, an attorney who says he had a meeting with 56 prisoners at Reeves on March 2, told News West 9 that prison officials suddenly prevented him from speaking with clients on March 3. McBride says prison officials gave no explanation for why he couldn’t meet with clients.
“[The warden] didn’t give me a reason why. He just said, “We’re not going to let you see them today, tomorrow or in the future,” McBride said.
McBride also told reporters that the prison blocked prisoners from calling his phone number from inside.
The reports of retaliation and a hunger strike at Reeves come just weeks after McBride announced that he would pursue a $15 million lawsuit against the Willacy County Correctional facility. The Reeves and Willacy facilities are two of the nation’s 13 segregated, federal “Criminal Alien Requirement” (CAR) prisons for immigrants. Most of those incarcerated in CAR prisons have been convicted of crossing the border. McBride said he wants to include all five of the CAR prisons in Texas in the lawsuit. McBride told NewsWest 9 that prisoners say they only eat rice and beans and that 4 computers must be shared among the 2,300 prisoners, making it nearly impossible to look for legal representation.
McBride also said medical care is withheld at Reeves. He says a diabetic prisoner who lost all of his five toes and part of his foot because of an infection went untreated.
The hunger strike allegations at Reeves come just days after a major two day uprising where 2,000 immigrant prisoners at the Willacy County Correctional Center last month. Willacy is operated by the Management and Training Corporation (MTC) and, according to an ACLU report, is home to the same abuse and poor medical care.
News West 9 contacted GEO Group to comment on McBride’s access to the inmates. In a statement, they said, “As a matter of policy, our company cannot comment on operational and legal matters."