“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

Two Reeves County Detention units to close down indefinitely

The Reeves County Detention is closing two of its units indefinitely, reports CBS 7.

 County Judge W.J. Bang stated in a release that Unit 1 and Unit 2 of the detention center will be closed after July 31. They will close following the loss of a contract with the Bureau of Prisons (BOP). The contract, which was for 3,600 prisoners, was instead awarded to the GEO Group at their Big Spring units.

 There is a possibility that Unit 3 of the detention center could remain open for another year, as the county and BOP negotiate a bridge contract that would allow time for relocating prisoners.

 Over the years, the Reeves County Detention Center has been plagued by numerous prisoner deaths, riots, and other issues such as denying attorneys access and using solitary confinement to retaliate against prisoners. Most recently, the detention center canceled visiting hours after placing the facility on "precautionary lockdown."

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A mother locked up in family detention attempts suicide in bid to have children released

A mother detained in a family detention center attempted suicide, reports the Huffington Post.

Samira Hakimi of Afghanistan has been detained at both the Dilley family detention center and the Karnes family detention center with her two young children. Hakimi passed her credible fear interview, an important first step in the asylum process. Normally an individual would be freed so they can continue their case in immigration court. However, Hakimi and her family are still detained and ICE has given no reason as to why. Hakimi's sister-in-law is also detained in Karnes with her 10-month-old baby.

 Hakimi has been suffering from clinical depression due to being detained for months, and felt particularly low when her son asked her why some families were leaving but they were not.

 Amy Fisher, policy director at RAICES, a non-profit focused on providing legal aid to families in detention, said, "She was crying and really depressed. And she went into this thought process, when she was really low, thinking, ‘Well, if I’m no longer here, maybe my children can be free.’" Children cannot be held in family detention without a family member or guardian.

 Following her suicide attempt, Hakimi woke up in the medical center at Karnes and was then taken to a nearby hospital. Staff from the detention center gave her medicine but did not give a reason as to what the medicine was or the purpose of it. Hakimi did not know what the medicine was, and RAICES is currently requesting her medical records.

 Dr. Luis Zayas, dean of the School of Social Work at the University of Texas, has interviewed countless individuals in detention and documented the effects of detention on children. “This is what happens when people get desperate,” Zayas said. “This woman is suffering a mental health crisis. But we know where it’s coming from. We know what we can do to stop it.”

 Dr. Zayas is right. We know what we can do to stop it. We must end family detention.

 

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The federal government is looking to increase private prison beds

The Department of Justice (DOJ) is looking to increase the number of beds prisons, reports CNN.

In April, the Bureau of Prisons (BOP) issued a notice stating they were looking to increase the number of beds in Criminal Alien Requirement (CAR) facilities. These facilities are operated by private prison companies and are used to incarcerate non-citizen immigrants who are mostly convicted of low-level drug offenses or civil immigration offenses. In the U.S. there are 11 such facilities, operated by three private companies: CoreCivic (formerly Corrections Corporation of America), the GEO Group, and Management and Training Corporation. The addition of over 1,500 beds would take the overall population of immigrants in CAR prisons to over 22,000.

This shift is the opposite of what the Obama administration planned for the future of these federal prisons. Last August, then Deputy Attorney General Sally Yates released a memo stating that the DOJ would begin to phase out the use of private prisons in the federal prison system. The original goal from the Obama administration was to reduce 7,000 beds by May 1st. That memo and plan was overturned by Attorney General Jeff Sessions, who rescinded Yates’ previous memo.

Since then, private prison companies have been expanding their operations. The GEO Group, one of the largest for-profit prison companies, was recently awarded a contract for a new, 1,000-bed detention center that will cost over $100 million to construct and operate. There have also been multiple examples of counties looking to expand their jail capacity or reopen closed immigration facilities.

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State Senator accused of accepting bribes from private companies

Federal prosecutors have indicted state Sen. Carlos Uresti for accepting bribes from a private prison medical contractor, reports the San Antonio Current.

Federal prosecutors revealed last week that the senator had been involved in a lawsuit against the Reeves County Detention Center following the death of Jesus Manuel Galindo. When Galindo was first detained in the facility, he told prison staff that he had a history of epileptic seizures. He complained about not receiving his medication and ended up in solitary confinement. He begged to guards to not put him into solitary in case of another seizure. The ACLU, which sued on behalf of Galindo's family, listed Physicians Network Associates (PNA) as a defendant. PNA was the private medical company that the detention center had contracted with to provide their medical care.

After Reeves County won the contract to work with the Bureau of Prisons, they needed to find a medical provider for the prisoners. The indictment claims that Jimmy Galindo, then a judge in Reeves County, agreed to push through the contract for the PNA to work at the Reeves County Detention Center in return for kickbacks. It is then believed that Sen. Uresti was brought in to act as a middleman for PNA and Judge Galindo. The lawsuit alleges that PNA and its successor companies paid Uresti $10,000 each month from September 2006 to September 2016. It is believed he pocketed half of the money and gave the rest to Jimmy Galindo.

It is particularly upsetting knowing that state officials profited off the Reeves Detention Center, which has a history of denying access to attorneys, riots, and the death of prisoners in their custody.

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