“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

The Brownfield state prison is closing!

The state prison in Brownfield is being closed after losing funding in the state budget, reports KCBD 11.

 During the past legislative session, the Texas House and Senate passed a budget that will will result in four state prisons being closed, including the West Texas Intermediate Sanction Facility (ISF) in Brownfield. Following the closing of the West Texas facility, the prisoners there will be moved to the Jim Rudd facility, which is also in Brownfield. The Rudd unit will be converted into an intermediate sanction facility. Those prisoners who are currently in the Rudd unit will be transferred to other state prisons.

 The West Texas facility was operated by Management and Training Corporation (MTC), a Utah-based private prison company. MTC operates 13 facilities in Texas, including the notorious Willacy County Correctional City, which was destroyed in a prisoner uprising over inadequate medical care at the facility.

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Texas family detention centers violate federal law by holding families for too long

Family detention centers in Texas are violating federal law for holding minors in detention, reports the Associated Press.

 Some families have been detained in detention centers for more than six months, even after Texas lawmakers failed to pass a bill that would license family detention centers as child care facilities. The passage of the bill would have opened the door for families to be detained for longer periods of time.

 Today, the AP reports that maximum time minors are supposed to be detained is 20 days, though many families are detained for much longer than that. Amy Fischer, policy director for RAICES, Refugee and Immigrant Center for Education and Legal Services, works with detained families and knows of at least seven families who have been held over the 20-day mark.

 Advocates against family detention say that 20-day stays violate federal law. A court ruling in 2015 said minors could not be detained for more than three days unless there are surges in immigration. Currently, the number of people crossing the border is at a low point.

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Deaths in immigrant detention centers are on pace to double from last year

According to the Daily Beast, individuals locked up in immigrant detention facilities are on pace to die at a rate twice as high as last year.

The Daily Beast was able to obtain records from Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), the government agency that runs the sprawling immigrant detention system. Since the beginning of the 2017 fiscal year, which began in October of 2016, eight individuals have died in ICE custody. Most recently this includes Jean Jimenez-Joseph, who hung himself in his jail cell, and Atulkumar Babubhai Patel, who died of congestive heart failure.

According to the Daily Beast, the number of deaths (eight) in fiscal year 2017 is almost equal to the number in fiscal year 2016 (10), and is on track to double that number. All but one of the deaths this year took place in privately run facilities. Last year, all but two of the deaths occurred in private facilities.

Another issue is the possibilities of prisoners in these facilities committing suicide. Earlier this month, a woman detained at the Karnes Family Residential Center attempted suicide. In a low moment, she believed that her death would allow her children, who are also detained, to be released as they cannot be in the facility without a parent or guardian.

Sadly, deaths in detention centers are not a new issue. Many facilities operated by private companies see prisoner deaths, both in immigrant detention facilities and in privately run jails.  

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Private prison's scheme to license baby jails fails in Texas

Karnes County Civil Detention Center
A proposal written by a private prison company to license baby jails as child care facilities has failed, according to a press release from Grassroots Leadership.

The proposal was written to bypass a ruling by an Austin-area judge in a lawsuit filed by immigrant families saying Texas Department of Family and Protective Services (DFPS) could not license the family detention centers as child care facilities. If the bills to license had passed, they would have resulted in the prolonged detention of families at two family detention centers in Texas —  the South Texas Residential Center and the Karnes County Residential Center. These facilities are operated by two private prison companies, CoreCivic (formerly known as Corrections Corporation of America) and the GEO Group respectively.

Dilley family detention camp

The passage of this law would have been a boon to private prison companies, as evident by these companies paying lobbyists $480,000 to advocate for their interests to the Texas legislature.

Representative John Raney, a Republican who authored the House version of the bill, even admitted that the legislation came directly from a GEO lobbyist.

"I've known the lady who's their lobbyist for a long time ...That's where the legislation came from," said state Rep. John Raney, a Republican from the rural town of Bryan. "We don't make things up. People bring things to us and ask us to help."

In a legislative session where racism and bigotry won most of the time, having this bill die was a welcome, positive result.

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