“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

Emerald Not Giving Up on Mineral Wells Detention Center

Emerald Companies is refusing to give up on the idea of a proposed private detention center in Mineral Wells, despite a recent rebuffing by that community's city council ("ICE facility put on chill," Mineral Wells Index, April 16) according to an interview with the company's COO Steve Afeman in the Mineral Wells Index ("Emerald open to alternate locations for ICE center," April 21),

Emerald Companies is open to looking at other site locations in Mineral Wells for the proposed Immigrations and Customs Enforcement detention center, according to Chief Operating Officer Steve Afeman.

Mayor Mike Allen's decision to postpone any city council action on Emerald's specific use permit application at the proposed location northeast of Mineral Wells Municipal Airport in order to look for other potential sites has delayed the project but not killed it, according to Afeman.

“It's a curve in the road, it's not a dead end,” Afeman said. “It's still a good project, the need's still there.”

Afeman said he has been told that the main opposition from city leaders has been about the location near the airport rather than the prison itself.

Emerald entered into a 90-day option agreement, with the option for an extension, in January with the Industrial Foundation to buy nearly 62-acres northeast of the airport for $1 per acre. Emerald must meet certain criteria, including obtaining a specific use permit from the city, within the deadline to purchase the land.

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United Methodist Bishops Call for End to Private Detention Centers

A group of Bishops of the United Methodist Church recently released a statement directed toward President Obama that calls for the end of all private detention centers.  The statement encourages the president to work for:

  • A pathway to citizenship for immigrants;
  • Reunification of immigrant families who have been separated by immigration itself or due to workplace raids and ensuing indefinite detentions and deportations;
  • More visas for short-term workers to come into the United States in safe, legal, and orderly ways;
  • Legal protection to all workers who come to stay for a certain period of time as well as for those who stay permanently, including the right to bargain for higher wages, protest poor working conditions, and preserve their human rights whether they are documented or undocumented;
  • Elimination of privately-operated, unregulated detention centers;
  • An end to all indiscriminate raids.

We applaud the Bishops in taking a stand to encourage the president to addres immigration and eliminate private detention centers

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25 GEO Prisoners Indicted for December Riot

The title says it all.  From the KWES ("25 Inmates Indicted in Connection to RCDC’s First Riot"),

The U.S. District Court in Pecos has released documents showing 25 inmates at the Reeves County Detention Center (RCDC) were indicted for their part in the first riot at the prison.

The federal grand jury documents show those inmates conspired to cause the riot that broke out December 12th at RCDC buildings one and two.

Those inmates set fire to several buildings and held two workers there against their will for hours.

At the time, inmates said they were rioting because they wanted better healthcare and asked to speak with the Mexican consulate.

A second riot broke out about a month later on January 31st and lasted several days.

Both uprisings did millions of dollars in damage to the private prison near Pecos.

Of course, this story raise the real question - who at the GEO Group or Reeves County will be held accountable for creating the conditions that led this riot?  Prison riots don't just happen; they are a response to poor conditions and poor security, two things that seem to be increasingly endemic to the GEO Group's Texas operations. 

See our previous coverage of the Reeves County Detention Center: 

Another Death at GEO's RCDC,  March 27, 2009

GEO Riots Could Cost Reeves County More than $1 Million, February 27, 2009

Family Members Protest GEO Group in Reeves County, February 14, 2009

HB 3247 Heard in Committee

Last week, Texas lawmakers heard HB 3247 a measure impacting county jail contracts and requires collective bargaining agreements.  Specifically, the bill voids any county contracts with private prison operators unless:

  •  The county enters into the contract in a collective bargaining agreement between the county and sheriff's department employees.

We hear that the Combined Law Enforcement Association of Texas (CLEAT) supports HB 3247. 

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