At a Monday June 13 Commissioners Court session, Ector County Commissioners approved a one-year extension of the Community Education Centers contract to operate the Ector County Correctional Center, despite numerous issues with the operation of the facility. The jail incarcerates up to 235 federal prisoners.
The facility is located directly above the County Courthouse, which proved to be an unfortunate place to have an office after repeated water and sewage leaks from the prison upstairs. Staff were forced to cover land deed records in plastic to protect them from destruction.
CEC’s deficiencies in operating the facility don’t end with maintenance. In 2013, eight former guards were sentenced for accepting cash to deliver contraband to individuals incarcerated at the prison, and in 2008 a guard was sentenced for smuggling cell phones. A 21-year-old man also committed suicide at the facility in 2008, which may have been tied to understaffing or lack of proper monitoring procedures.
Management and Training Corporation (MTC), owner and former operator of the Willacy County Correctional Center in Raymondville, will partially tear down remaining structures at the now-vacant prison according to KRGV News.
The company lost its contract with the Bureau of Prisons (BOP) after a prisoner uprising broke out at the facility in 2015. Prisoners burned down multiple of the kevlar tents that compose what was known as “Tent City,” the site of a segregated federal prison for immigrants.
MTC told local press shortly after the uprising that it would work to secure another contract to re-open the prison. This latest move to tear down remaining tents appears to be an effort to achieve that goal, as an MTC spokesperson said the reason for the tent removal is that “the company doesn’t believe another contractor would like the idea of housing offenders in tents.”
The death of a prisoner reported on May 30 at the Jack Harwell Detention Center in McLennan County is under investigation by federal, state, and local officials. The private jail is operated by private, for-profit prison company LaSalle Corrections.
Litte information is known about the incident, however, a news report stated:
"McLennan County Sheriff Parnell McNamara did not return phone messages Tuesday. Sheriff’s Office Capt. Ricky Armstrong declined comment, saying the inmate was a U.S. Marshals Service prisoner and referring questions to the marshals service.
Deputy U.S. Marshal Joe Bays also declined comment, saying the matter is under investigation. Bays declined to provide details of the inmate’s death, his or her identity or suspected manner and means of death."
This is not the first prisoner death at this private jail. In February, three former LaSalle Corrections employees were indicted after surveillance video showed that they lied about conducting head counts after a prisoner committed suicide last November.
Emerald Companies sold the city on the idea of floating debt to build the detention center.
In November, the 700-bed Prairieland Detention Center is scheduled to open in Alvarado, Texas, a remote town in Johnson County 40 mines southeast of Dallas. The facility will be operated by Emerald Correctional Management, a Louisiana-based private prison corporation that manages six other facilities and has faced allegations of mistreatment of detained immigrants and shady contracting practices at other facilities.
The detention center will include a 36-person unit specifically designated to detain transgender immigrants, a practice that LGBTQI advocates decry as inhumane because transgender individuals are particularly vulnerable to physical and sexual assaults while in custody. Olga Tomchin, a staff attorney at the National Day Laborer Organizing Network, told Fusion, “ICE has shown over and over again that they’re incapable of detaining trans people with even minimal levels of dignity or safety.”