“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

Complaints over medical care mounting in private immigrant prisons in Texas

Big SpringBig SpringFamilies of prisoners in Big Spring Correctional Center are speaking out over a lack of medical care in the facility. An attorney who filed a lawsuit in Willacy County last month says he plans on filing similar suits over conditions at all five criminal alien requirement (CAR) prisons in Texas. News West 9 reports that Attorney William McBride filed a lawsuit against the Willacy County Private Prison after allegations of maltreatment against the immigrants detained there.

Family members of prisoners inside the Big Spring Correctional Center are also claiming that the facility is not giving proper medical care to their loved ones. Big Spring is one of five criminal alien requirement (CAR) private prisons in Texas, and is currently being run by GEO Group.

The lack of medical care was at the heart of an uprising at a the Willacy County facility in Raymondville last month, which is run by Mangement & Training Corporation (MTC). Media reported that as many as 2,000 prisoners at the Willacy County Correctional Center staged a two-day protest over medical care that began on the morning of February 20 when they refused to eat breakfast. The prisoners would eventually take control of part of the prison, and set fires to a number of the kevlar tents that make up the prison.

In Big Spring, among the 3,500 prisoners is Marcy Torres’ father, a man who needs a daily dose of medication for his liver disease. She told News West 9, “When he goes to the doctor [at the facility], he has to tell them what he's there for because basically they don't know. They're changing doctors so many times, they don't have the staff.”

Another incarcerated person at Big Spring told News West 9 that he has been waiting for over nine months to receive his medication. He shared inside information about the conditions within the facility, but declined to be named. According to him, if those incarcerated need certain medications, they must pay for them - an expense that few can afford. He claimed prisoners are forced to wear blood-stained underwear and that the only time bathrooms are fixed is when inspectors make visits. He told News West 9, “The abuse from the employees is terrible. They humiliate us. They say they're gonna deport us because we don't have rights."

CAR prisons are segregated prisons for immigrants in the federal prison system. They are all operated by for-profit, private prison companies. There are 13 CAR facilities in the U.S. and five of those are in Texas. These prisons hold immigrants convicted of federal crimes, which are mostly related to crossing the border. Because of a program called Operation Streamline and a related spike in felony prosecutions for border-crossing, immigrants are criminally prosecuted for crossing the border and funneled into CAR prisons.

Prisoners transferred, county government S&P rating downgraded in the wake of uprising at Willacy County

Prisoners at a "criminal alien requirement" (CAR) prison in Willacy County recently protested conditions and medical care at the facility. The prisoners began protesting by refusing breakfast, but then escalated to setting fire to several of the kevlar tents that make up the housing units. Currently, the 2,900 prisoners have begun to be transferred to other Federal Bureau of Prisons (BOP) facilities throughout the country. 

Management and Training Corporation, the private corporation that runs the facility, has refused to comment on where the prisoners are being moved, citing safety and security as the main reason for the secrecy. The uprising was not surprising to many advocates of prison and immigration reform. An ACLU report released last year detailed squalid conditions, rampant abuse, and little to no medical care at the facility.

The Willacy County Local Government Corporation, which contracts with MTC to run the facility, has had its S&P rating downgraded to a BBB long-term rating because it relied on the facility as a primary source of income. The 400 people who worked at the facility are reportedly afraid of losing their jobsThe BOP has not commented on whether it plans on reopening the facility, and MTC has maintained that they will assess the damage once all of the prisoners have been evacuated.

Immigrant prisoner uprising at Willacy County CAR prison

Last week, up to 2,000 immigrant prisoners staged a two-day riot at a private prison in Raymondville, TX. According to a report by DemocracyNow!, the prisoners were protesting inadequate medical care when they refused to eat breakfast on February 20, seized control of part of the prison, and set fires.

The prison, Willacy County Correctional Center, is owned and operated by the private prison company Management & Training Corporation (MTC), and is known by critics as "Ritmo" — short for Raymondville’s Guantánamo prison. It is also referred to as “tent city” because the majority of the prisoners sleep in large, cramped kevlar tents.

Willacy County Correctional Center

The Raymondville prison is also one of 13 privately operated CAR or “Criminal Alien Requirement” prisons. Carl Takei, staff attorney with the ACLU’s national prison project explained:

"Willacy is one of 13 private prisons in the federal system. It’s sort of a shadow system within the Federal Bureau of Prisons system, that is run by private prison companies. These prisons house immigrants who have been convicted of drug offenses and immigrants who have been convicted of something called illegally re-entering the United States after deportation. The Bureau of Prisons has consigned immigrants to these prisons based on the assumption that they are all going to be deported after their sentences are up. And it can therefore treat them as second-class prisoners and hand them over to these for-profit companies that have a history of abusing and mistreating the people in their custody."

Takei also authored the report, Warehoused and Forgotten: Immigrants Trapped in Our Shadow Private Prison System, which provides a closer look at CAR prisons and the inhumane conditions inside.  

Welcoming new TBP blogger, Marlon C. Saucedo

 

Texas Prison Bid’ness is pleased to welcome Marlon C. Saucedo as a new blogger.

 

Marlon C. SaucedoMarlon C. SaucedoMost recently, Marlon has been working with the University Leadership Initiative (ULI) at the University of Texas in organizing actions against the incarceration of immigrants and has participated in Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) clinics. Marlon has also been working in ULI's TX Tuition Equity campaign, which advocates against recently introduced state bills that would revoke in-state tuition for undocumented Texan students.

 

Originally from Monterrey, Mexico, Marlon is currently a Journalist and Radio/Television/Film student at the University of Texas in Austin. As an undocumented student, Marlon has first-hand experience of the injustice of the immigration and detention systems.

 

"Receiving the opportunity to weather away the systems that once brought heavy trauma to my humble family is the closest thing to what I would call redemption,” Marlon said. “Not just my own redemption, but that of all those in the past, present and future, afflicted by the injustice created by misguided leadership within this country."

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