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Thousands of sweltering prisoners to be moved to air-conditioned units

In Houston, a federal judge approved moving more than one thousand prisoners to various private prisons that have air conditioning, reports the Texas Tribune.

 

The judge signed off on Texas' court-ordered proposal to move medically sensitive prisoners from the Texas Department of Criminal Justice's (TDCJ) Pack Unit, which has no air conditioner. The proposal was ordered in July following a judge’s ruling that air conditioning must be provided for vulnerable inmates. The judge also stated that TDCJ was "deliberately indifferent" to the risk of harm prisoners face at the scorching prison.

 

In Texas, almost 75 percent of prisons and state jails do not have air conditioning in prisoners’ living areas. Some prisons, including the Pack Unit, regularly reach above 100 degrees. Prisoners filed a class-action lawsuit against TDCJ that points to at least 23 heat-related deaths since 1998. The prisoners argue that housing should be kept at 88 degrees maximum.

 

The majority of these prisoners will be moved to the Diboll Unit, which is operated by Management and Training Corporation, a Utah-based private prison company. Others will be transferred to the Travis County State Jail. Two hundred other prisoners will be transferred to nine different units across Texas. Unfortunately, the transfer of prisoners means that some prisoners will be transferred from facilities with air conditioning to those without it, such as the Pack Unit.

 

Jeff Edwards, lawyer for the prisoners at the Pack Unit, believes the transfers could happen more quickly than the two to three weeks TDCJ planned. He also said that the case was not over, hopes to find relief for all prisoners and staff in the Texas prison system, not just at Pack Unit. "It’s our hope that [TDCJ] will join us in the 21st century."

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One private prison company replaces another

One private prison company is taking a contract away from their competition, reports the Longview News-Journal.

 

Management and Training Corporation (MTC) is a Utah-based private prison company that recently was contracted to CoreCivic, another for-profit prison company. CoreCivic had operated the Bradshaw State Jail for 13 years, but recently lost their bid to renew the contract for the facility. Due to the failed contract renewal, over 500 workers from three different detention centers in Texas will be laid off.

 

MTC, which operates the East Texas Treatment Facility near the Bradshaw State Jail, will take over operations of Bradshaw starting on September 1. The company plans on hiring the majority of the employees from the Bradshaw State Jail that will be laid off by CoreCivic following their failed bid.

The Brownfield state prison is closing!

The state prison in Brownfield is being closed after losing funding in the state budget, reports KCBD 11.

 During the past legislative session, the Texas House and Senate passed a budget that will will result in four state prisons being closed, including the West Texas Intermediate Sanction Facility (ISF) in Brownfield. Following the closing of the West Texas facility, the prisoners there will be moved to the Jim Rudd facility, which is also in Brownfield. The Rudd unit will be converted into an intermediate sanction facility. Those prisoners who are currently in the Rudd unit will be transferred to other state prisons.

 The West Texas facility was operated by Management and Training Corporation (MTC), a Utah-based private prison company. MTC operates 13 facilities in Texas, including the notorious Willacy County Correctional City, which was destroyed in a prisoner uprising over inadequate medical care at the facility.

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Willacy County files lawsuit against private prison company

According Fox Rio 2, a lawsuit is being filed against Management and Training Corporation (MTC) by the Willacy County Local Government Corporation alleging that the Willacy County Prison was forced to close because of its failure to meet its basic contractual obligations.

The lawsuit claims that MTC, a private prison company, failed to oversee and repair problems which eventually led to the closure of the prison. The Local Government Corporation alleges that MTC did not follow contract procedures, including providing necessary services for inmates and repairing any problems at the facility. These problems included flooded toilets, rodents, and a lack of basic inmate services. The flooded toilets and lack of basic inmate services led to a protest in the Willacy County Correctional Facility by inmates in February of 2015.

The Willacy County Prison was shut down by the Bureau of Prisons, which stated that the facility was uninhabitable. The Local Government Corporation states that if MTC had down their job correctly, the prison would still in operation.

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State lawmakers on colleagues in the U.S. Congress: “they've got to fight” DOJ on private prisons

During a tour of South Plain communities, State Rep. Drew Springer and State Sen. Charles Perry told community members that their representatives in the U.S. Congress need to fight private prison closures, according to the Lubbock Avalanche-Journal.

Springer and Perry toured through Post, Jayton, Roby, Aspermont, Haskell, and Throckmorton, where they spoke about a variety of topics, including border security, rural healthcare, and private prisons. Rep. Springer brought up the Giles W. Dalby Correctional Facility, a private prison run by the Management & Training Corporation (MTC), which is currently in limbo following the decision by the Department of Justice to phase out the use of private prisons.

Springer said that both he and Sen. Perry had recently put out a letter in support of the private prison. He then said "anytime I get a chance to talk to any congressman, I tell them they’ve got to fight this. We need to make sure the Bureau of Prisons gets off of this or at least lay out a plan that says it’s a five-year, 10-year, some sort of phase-out that communities can plan on."

 

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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.

Willacy County still reeling after prison uprising as insurance doesn't go far enough for local community

Willacy County Correctional CenterWillacy County is still feeling the effects of an immigrant prisoner uprising that destroyed the privately operated Willacy County Correctional Center in February. The prison, run by Management & Training Corporation (MTC), was closed due to significant structural damage causing the relocation of 2,500 federal prisoners and nearly 400 employee layoffs.

Willacy County Correctional Center

According to recent reports, the county received about $4 milion in insurance money, but county officials say the money won't last long. Currently, the money is being divided four ways — clean up from the uprising, county administration costs, losses to MTC, and payments toward the $9 million bond to pay for the jail. 

In the meantime, hundreds in the community are struggling financially. One employee who was laid off in March said her unemployment compensation is insufficient and she is taking out a loan to help cover her bills. 

The county aims to get the facility up and running again, but the insurance money may not last. And, if the Bureau of Prisons (BOP) decides against renewing the contract, the county could face a big blow to their income. 

 

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Willacy County Local Gov't bonds downgraded to junk, county and city left to plug gaping budget holes

Last month, February 25th, an uprising over negligence, poor sanitation, and lack of medical care occurred at the “Tent City” criminal alien requirement (CAR) prison in Willacy County. Following the uprising, Management and Training Corporation (MTC) lost its contract with the Bureau of Prisons (BOP) and fired the nearly 400 employees that worked there. All of the 2,400 prisoners were transferred to other facilities around the country.

Although MTC is investigating the uprising, there are no immediate plans to reopen the facility. The damage, loss of the BOP contract, and the layoffs are piling up on top of the county's $63 million debt from the building of the facility.

All this has caused the Willacy County Local Government Corp. bonds to be downgraded to junk status by the S&P. The already struggling county will be left to fill the gaps in its budget, and will not be able to afford some of its planned expenditures — including a new hurricane shelter.

The model of MTC and other private prison companies is to find small, struggling towns and counties like Willacy and Raymondsville and promise them economic recovery. The aftermath of the Willacy uprising is one more example of how they do not deliver on their promises, and if anything goes wrong, the companies bail — leaving the vulnerable community to fend for itself.

MTC loses Bureau of Prisons contract after Willacy riot

According to a KRGV report, the Federal Bureau of Prisons (BOP) has cancelled their contract with Management and Training Corporation (MTC) at the Willacy County Correctional Center in Raymondville, TX. 

The KRGV report said, 

"MTC representatives told CHANNEL 5 NEWS the national inmate population is down and the Bureau of Prisons doesn't need the additional beds. There is a 3-day hiring event planned to help workers who were laid off."

The announcement comes after a prisoner riot last month left the facility uninhabitable. The prisoners have all been transferred to other facilities and MTC has laid off 363 employees, which Willacy County Sheriff Larry Spence described as "devastating". 

In a statement on BOP's closing of the Willacy prison, the ACLU commented,

“The Bureau of Prisons’ decision to shut down the Willacy private prison is a welcome but long overdue move,” said Carl Takei, an attorney at the ACLU's National Prison Project. “We hope the Bureau will sustain this momentum by ending the use of private prisons entirely. Additionally, Congress must pass sentencing reform legislation and take steps to address our country’s mass incarceration epidemic.”

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.

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