“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

Family detention centers are mostly empty — so why license them?

According to KUT, the two family detention centers in South Texas are mostly empty, leaving immigration judges who had been relocated to the centers with nothing to do.

Due to a low number of people being detained at the border, the number of individuals in the two family detention centers in Texas has dropped dramatically. Between the two facilities, there are only a few hundred people detained. The two facilities have a total capacity of more than 3,000.

Another reason for the low numbers is due to a federal ruling that stated that children could not be held in a secure, jail-like facility. To comply with the ruling, Immigration and Customs Enforcement — the federal agency that contracts with the family detention centers — must release the children and their mothers in a short amount of time.

To bypass that decision, Texas State lawmakers this year proposed a bill that would allow the state to license this family detention camps as child care facilities. This bill, if signed into law, would be used to circumvent the ruling that an Austin-area judge made in a lawsuit but forth by immigrant families and allies against the licensing.   

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Texas Senate passes bill that will license 'baby jails' as childcare facilities

The Texas Senate passed a bill that would allow family detention camps to be licensed as child care facilities, reports Raw Story. The bill now heads to the House.

The bill would allow family detention centers to be licensed as child care facilities, which would extend the length of detention for mothers in children detained at the centers. A federal judge ruled in 2015 that children could not be held in secure facilities that are not licensed child care facilities. To try and circumvent that ruling, the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services (DFPS) approved a rule that would allow the licensing of family detention centers to continue.

This approved rule was then challenged by a lawsuit that was filed by immigrant families who had been detained in Karnes and Dilley — the two family detention centers located in Texas. An Austin-area judge issued a final judgement in December of 2016 that prevented DFPS from licensing the facilities. This ruling has been appealed by the Texas Attorney General.

"Precautionary" lockdown finally lifted at Reeves Detention Center

The lockdown on the Reeves County Detention Center has been lifted, reports News West 9.

As we reported earlier, the detention center was under "precautionary" lockdown. Visitors to the center were denied, and some reported that visitation had not been allowed for almost a month. Officials from the GEO Group, the private prison company that operates the facility, confirmed that there had been a lockdown but gave no reason as to why.

In an email sent to News West 9, GEO officials said the lockdown had been lifted. However, they were unclear on when the lockdown was lifted or how long it had been in effect.

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Reeves County Detention Center cancels visits under "precautionary" lockdown

The Reeves County Detention Center has been turning away visitors to the facility due to a "precautionary" lockdown, reports CBS 7.

The Reeves County Detention Center is run by the GEO Group, one of the largest private prison companies in the U.S. While there has been no word on the cause of the lockdown, individuals told CBS 7 that visitation to the prison has not been allowed for the past month due to the "precautionary" lockdown.

When contacted about the lockdown, Pablo E. Paenz, of GEO Group, said "while we’re not able to comment on specific security matters, we can confirm that the center is under a precautionary lockdown. During this time, medical services and regularly scheduled meals are being provided to the population. The center is committed to keeping those entrusted to our care safe and secure."

This is not the first time the Reeves County Detention Center has been in the spotlight. In the past, the facility has been the site of multiple riots, mysterious deaths, and has denied entry to attorneys.

We will post updates as we learn more.

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