“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

New transgender unit in Texas detention center raises concerns

A new detention center in Texas that contains a separate unit for transgender inmates has activists concerned, reported Public Radio International.

The Praireland Detention Center, located in Alvarado Texas, is expected to hold about 700 migrants, with a separate pod for 36 transgender migrants as well. It is operated by Emerald Correctional Management, a private prison company that will run the detention center on a five-year contract. The city of Alvarado will then have a chance to extend the contract if they wish.

Activists are opposed to the new detention center because they fear poor treatment and abuse of transgender inmates in the pod. Activists reference the Santa Ana Jail in California, where transgender inmates did not receive their hormone therapy medication on time and dealt with delays dealing with the transfer of their medical records. There were also reports of sexual assaults in the form of unlawful and degrading strip searches, as well as guards telling the transgender inmates to “use their male voices” and to act more “like a male.”

Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) released a statement in 2015 saying they are committed to upholding the health, safety, and welfare of all transgender inmates.

Those in favor of the new detention center say that it will create 200 jobs in Alvarado.

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Two former private prison guards plead guilty to bribery

Two former private prison guards pleaded guilty to charges of bribery from their time working at the Willacy County Regional Detention Facility, reports CBS 4 News.  

Last November, Stephen Salinas and Harry Cordero were arrested by the U.S. Marshals for accepting bribes from prisoners in return for bringing alcohol and cell phones into the prison. Cordero pleaded guilty on December 21, with his sentencing hearing to be held on March 27. Salinas pleaded guilty on January 3, and will receive his sentencing on April 11. Both men face three to 10 years in prison.

Ector County Year in Review: Private prisons weren't the only thing that stank

Ector County Courthouse
Ector County had to deal with more waste and smells than they were originally planning on during 2016, reports the Odessa American.

In March of 2016, it was reported that the Ector County Courthouse was dealing with sewage leaking into offices, putting both workers and official documents at risk. This is because on the floor above the courthouse is the Ector County Correctional Center, the jail operated by  private prison company Community Education Centers (CEC). Poorly maintained sewage pipes had been clogged by inmates, which led to bursting pipes.

The problem caused some dispute as some in Ector County wanted CEC to pay for some or all of the repairs needed. CEC offered to pay only a certain amount for damages caused. Some county commissioners approved of asking CEC pay for damages, while others thought it would make the county look like “adversaries” to the private prison company.

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Limestone County Detention Center is back in business

The Limestone County Detention Center in Groesbeck, Texas, is now officially back in business, as reported by KWTX.

As reported earlier, Limestone County signed a new contract with LaSalle Southwest Corrections, a private prison company. The contract saw LaSalle take over the prison and renovate it before moving 55 Harris County juvenile prisoners  into the newly opened prison. As stated when the contract was announced, the Limestone County Detention Center will be used to detain 17-year old Harris County inmates. While there are only 55 in the renovated center now, Limestone County Judge Daniel Burkeen believes that hundreds more will be moved to the facility after the first of the year. The warden, Charles Vondra, said that the population should grow to about 600 or 650 inmates.

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