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Private prison is up for sale

Reeves County is thinking of selling their detention center, News West 9 reports.

 

Reeves County announced at the end of May that they would be permanently shutting down two corrections units as a part of the the Reeves County Detention Center complex operated by private prison corporation GEO Group, following the loss of a contract with the Bureau of Prisons (BOP). The county was negotiating with the BOP to keep a third unit open for another year as they transfer prisoners to other facilities. The negotiations were unsuccessful for the county however, and now the third unit will be closed.

 

County officials are now looking at all available options for the facility, including selling it. The county has received two bids for the facility so far. One was under the estimated price of the facility, and commissioners stated the other was more of a lay away plan. Neither bid was accepted, and the county is now getting an appraisal of the facility before it opening it up to other bids.

 

If Reeves County is looking to profit from their detention centers, they may think again. The closing of the Bartlett State Jail has potential to save the city thousands of dollars a year, while the city of Eden is looking to diversify their economy following the closing of their private prison. Reeves County would do well to invest in long-term solutions, and not prisons that can close at the drop of a hat.

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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MTC tears down Willacy "Tent City" in attempt to secure new prison contract

Management and Training Corporation (MTC), owner and former operator of the Willacy County Correctional Center in Raymondville, will partially tear down remaining structures at the now-vacant prison according to KRGV News.

The company lost its contract with the Bureau of Prisons (BOP) after a prisoner uprising broke out at the facility in 2015. Prisoners burned down multiple of the kevlar tents that compose what was known as “Tent City,” the site of a segregated federal prison for immigrants.

MTC told local press shortly after the uprising that it would work to secure another contract to re-open the prison. This latest move to tear down remaining tents appears to be an effort to achieve that goal, as an MTC spokesperson said the reason for the tent removal is that “the company doesn’t believe another contractor would like the idea of housing offenders in tents.”

The fact that MTC did approve of housing people in tents speaks to the abysmal conditions that led to the Willacy uprising, and abuse that has been exposed inside Criminal Alien Requirement (CAR) prisons, including deaths from medical neglect. It also reflects the increased scrutiny that any facility built on the site of the former prison will face. MTC’s efforts to market the facility come in the wake of an exposé in The Nation revealing that the BOP knew of violations inside CAR prisons for years but still renewed the contracts.

While insurance will cover MTC’s costs to tear down the tents, 400 jobs were lost when the prison closed and Willacy County was left with soaring debt and a budget crisis that led to more layoffs.

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