The Reeves County Detention Center in Pecos, Texas is the first of the five "criminal alien requirement" (CAR) prisons in Texas covered in an ACLU report released this week that exposes abuses within such facilities.
The report's findings indicate that men detained at Reeves are denied medical care. The most notable example is the death of Jesus Manuel Galindo, who was placed in solitary confinement after suffering a grand mal seizure in December 2008. Galindo suffered more seizures in solitary and died as a result. A wrongful death suit was filed against Reeves County, the Bureau of Prisons (BOP) and the GEO Group, which was settled in January 2013.
Prisoners at Reeves still report denial of medical services. One prisoner reported that diabetic prisoners must receive insulin treatment at mealtimes, thus forcing them to choose between eating and medical care.
Following Galindo's death, prisoners rioted and set fire to a recreation center at the prison. Riots are common at Reeves and, a month after Galindo's death, another riot broke out, resulting in two guards being taken hostage and $20 million in damage from a fire set my the detained men.
Reeves officials also overuse solitary confinement. Prisoners who participated in a petition to protest conditions at Reeves were placed in solitary confinement after being subjected to tear gas and being shot at with rubber bullets. Petition supporters and bystanders spent two days in the SHU (solitary housing unit). Samuel, a 38-year-old Jamaican immigrant, recounts the event:
“Once everyone was lying down [after the tear-gassing], they cuffed us and took us out and put water on us. I started speaking up, not talking of resistance, but I was saying it’s not fair to punish all...”
The men spent two days in the SHU with four people in two-person capacity cells without pillows or blankets, or soap to wash the tear gas from their bodies.
In fact, experiences like Samuel's are common at Reeves. Other prisoners have reported the overuse of solitary and, in fact, contracts between the GEO Group and Reeves state that ten percent of housing at Reeves be allocated to the SHU. This percentage is almost twice as large as in other BOP facilities. Prisoners have reported that, when the SHU is full, two men sleep on bunks and a third sleeps on the floor. Prisoners often spend months in the SHU without explanation, and one man recounted that "anything" he did could result in time in the SHU.
Dormitories are also overcrowded at Reeves. Prisoners have stated that, despite Reeves' status as a minimum security facility, they must spend fifty minutes of every hour in their bunks. Movement around the unit to the library or to the recreation room is only allowed in the ten minutes at the beginning of every hour. Guards search prisoners after movement between rooms. If prisoners miss the annoucement that movement is allowed, they must wait another hour. Overcrowding is apparently an incentive for profit. Maximum capacity in GEO's contract with the BOP is 90 percent, and there is a per-prisoner payment policy up to 115 percent capacity. As a result, recreation facilities have been converted into dormitories. Prisoners call these makeshift housing unites are called "chicken coops." The chicken coops contain 42 beds and reportedly smell like feces constantly because they are close to bathroom facilities.
Overcrowding spills over to the recreation yards as well. There is a large yard and smaller yard, with the small yard intended to accommodate forty people. It is often used by 400 people at a time. In addition, the Port-A-Potties in the yard have not been replaced in four years, and many prisoners report that the contents have "splashed up" on them.
This is not the first time Reeves has been on our radar. Reeves is mentioned in NPR's feature on for-profit incarceration and the ACLU's previous involvement in ligitgation regarding Reeves County's refusal to disclose documents regarding prisoner deaths, staffing and medical care.
The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) released a report on the five "Criminal Alien Requirement" (CAR) facilities in Texas. According to the abbreviated report, 25,00 immigrant men are detained under CAR in thirteen detention centers throughout the country. In Texas, approximately 14,000 men are living in CAR prisons. The ACLU documented numerous cases of abuse, neglect, copious use of solitary confinement, and the separation of families.
The incarceration of people in CAR facilities is due to mass incarceration, for-profit incarceration and the criminalization of migration. These three unnverving norms have all contributed to immigration detention.
Over the next few days, we will examine the five CAR prisons in Texas that the ACLU included in its report: the Big Spring Correctional Center, Big Spring, TX; the Giles W. Dalby Correctional Facility, Post, TX; the Reeves County Detention Center, centers 1 and 2 and 3, Pecos, TX; the Willacy County Correctional Center, Raymondville, TX; and the Eden Detention Center, Eden, TX.
This week, the New York Times reported that incarcerated immigrants are forced to labor in detention centers ("Using Jailed Migrants as a Pool of Cheap Labor" 5/24/14).
The report claims that nearly 5,500 incarcerated immigrants work every day — 60,000 people per year — in immigrant detention centers in the United States. Though federal officials claim that immigrants are not required to work, immigrant advocates are concerned that using immigrants for labor inside these facilities is neither lawful nor voluntary. Immigrant labor costs 13 cents per hour, which saves private prison corporations and the United States government $40 million per year.
Detained men at the Joe Corley Detention Center in Conroe, Texas staged a hunger strike earlier this year to protest such working conditions. The men were also protesting deportations, cell overcrowding, poor medical care and expensive commissary prices.
Private prison officials have only commented that immigrant labor is legal and "helps with morale." Carl Takei, an attorney with ACLU's National Prison Project, commented: "This in essence makes the government, which forbids everyone else from hiring people without documents, the single largest employer of undocumented immigrants in the country."
Jacqueline Stephens, a professor of political science at Northwestern University, believes that these immigrants' 13th Amendment rights are being violated. The 13th Amendment abolished slavery and involunary servitude, except when used as the punishment for a crime. "By law, firms contracting with the federal government are supposed to match or increase local wages, not commit wage theft," Stephens remarked.
Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) claimes that detained people cannot work more than 40 hours per week, and are not permitted to provide work for any outside entity. 140 detained men at the Joe Corley Detention Center, however, make 7,000 meals per day, and half of those meals are sent to the Montgomery County Jail.
The Lone Star News Group reported this week that two former CCA guards have been indicted on bribery charges ("Former prison employees plead guilty to bribery," 5/20/14).
Carl James Guittard, 36, and Terrie Elaine Glover, 49, were both required to pay a $1000 fine, serve 240 hours of community service, and must serve 10 years of probation. Both were guards at the 2100-bed Mineral Wells Pre-Parole Transfer Facility, which closed on July 30th, 2013 after the Texas Legislature cut its funding. The facility was operated by the Corrections Corporation of America (CCA).
The indictments also claim that 10 people offered or gave money and prepaid debit cards to Guittard, Glover, or both guards. They also allegedly provided tobacco products to people incarcerated at the facility. A state prosecutor has deemed the investigation "extensive."
Sixteen formerly incarcerated people were indicted in this investigation.