“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

"A Death in Texas": More excellent coverage of immigrant detention complex from Tom Barry

Tom Barry continues his excellent coverage of the growing system of private prisons detaining immigrants for ICE, the U.S. Marshals, and the federal prison system in a new article in the Boston Review ("A Death in Texas: Profits, Poverty, and Immigration Converge," November/December 2009) online this week. 

Barry, whose excellent blogging over at the Border Lines Blog, has covered the growing immigrant detention industrial complex in the context of the mess that is the Reeves County Detention Center out in Pecos.  In this new article, Barry takes a comprehensive look at the policies and poverty that have driven poor rural Texas towns into the prison industry, and what some of the disasterous results have been.  Here's a brief sample:

Debbie Thomas, curator of the West of the Pecos Museum (commonly known as the cowboy museum), sighs when asked about the town’s only steady business over the past two decades. “Well, we don’t want to be known as a prison town, but it’s better than being a ghost town,” she says. Pecos was once a busy crossroads and hub of industry. Today, the downtown is dead.  In 1985 Reeves County became the first of a few dozen Texas counties to get into the speculative prison business, when Judge Jimmy Galindo (no relation to Jesus Manuel Galindo) persuaded the County Commissioners Court to take a bold step for Pecos’s economic future. At the time, Judge Galindo and other county leaders argued that Pecos could cash in on the surge in incarceration rates that accompanied the war on drugs. Years later, for the prison’s two expansions, the county and the private operators would rely on the federal government to send them immigrant inmates.

Lawsuit filed on South Texas private prison corruption scandal

Former Willacy County Attorney Juan Guerra has filed a private lawsuit against several South Texas officials and former U.S. Attorney General Alberto Gonzales in conjunction with his ongoing battle to expose private prison corruption related to the construction of private prisons in Raymondville

According to the report by the Rio Grande Guardian ("KGBT: Juan Guerra files suit against Lucio, Gonzales, et al," October 20)

The Guardian’s media partner, KGBT-TV, is reporting that former Willacy County DA Juan Guerra has filed a federal lawsuit against state Sen. Eddie Lucio and 28 others. Also sued, Action 4 News is reporting, is former U.S. Attorney General Alberto Gonzales, former U.S. Attorney for Southern District of Texas Donald DeGarbrielle, and state District Judges Migdalia Lopez and Janet Leal.

Among the accusations are engaging in organized criminal activity, accepting of an honorarium, abuse of official capacity, official oppression, murder and manslaughter, Action 4 News reports. In the 35-page lawsuit, Guerra alleges that Lucio and the others used their positions to derail an investigation into private prisons in Willacy County.

Vigil Calls for Closure of Raymondville's Notorious "Tent City" Detention Center

More than one hundred organizers from across Texas held a vigil Friday for the 4,200 immigrants in detention in the Rio Grande Valley and called for the closure of the controversial Willacy County Detention Center in Raymondville (Protest at Willacy County detention center, Oct. 16, 2009). The 3,086-bed Willacy County Processing Center, a private prison operated by Utah-based Management and Training Corporation (MTC) and partially constructed of Kevlar tents, is the nation's largest immigrant detention center.

In announcing the vigil, organizers pointed to evidence that alternatives to immigrant detention exist which are more humane, more effective, and more fiscally responsible than immigrant detention.

A Vera Institute study from 2000 showed that 91% of immigrants on a supervised release program attended all of their immigration hearings, and the cost of the supervision program was $12 a day, compared with the more than $30 a day ICE pays MTC to detainee immigrants at Tent City.

The Vera Institute concluded:

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LCS's Coastal Bend Detention Center Preparing for Round Two of Inspection

Last month we covered the failed inspection of an LCS Corrections facility, the Coastal Bend Detention Center (CBDC). The CBDC failed on 17 different compliance issues, with the director of the Texas Commission on Jail Standards stating the inspection results were "really close to complete incompetence" ("Robstown Prison Fails Inspection," Corpus Christi Caller-Times, September 21, 2009). Also in that article, jail Warden Elberto Bravo was quoted with projecting that he would have his facility in compliance with Texas jail standards by the end of October. 

Recently, Bravo has asked inspectors to return in mid-October for a second round of inspections:

"Texas Commission on Jail Standards director Adan Muñoz said his office has been in regular contact with the Robstown facility and Bravo sent a progress update earlier this week.

“I know the warden has been working hard to correct the issues,” Muñoz said. “I think they can get back on par. Having said that, its my understanding that they now have fired or terminated individuals and they are taking the proper corrective actions.”

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