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Reeves County Detention Center

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.

Reeves County is in negotiations to keep a private prison open

Reeves County is negotiating with the Bureau of Prisons to how they can keep one unit of the Reeves County Detention Center open, reports CBS 7.

 Last week, Reeves County announced the closing of two units of the Reeves County Detention Center. The closures follow the loss of a contract the county had with the Bureau of Prisons (BOP) to detain prisoners. The contract instead went to the GEO Group's Big Spring unit.

 County officials, including the county judge, commissioners, attorneys, and even financial advisors, are working to keep the last remaining unit open. Commissioners voted on Monday to move forward with using the GEO Group to help the county negotiate a bridge contract with the BOP. This would allow the facility to remain open for one year as prisoners are transferred to other facilities.

 Commissioner Paul Hinojos said the county could sell the facility if the bridge contract is not agreed upon. Another option would be to transfer prisoners from other states and government agencies. Hinojos hopes to keep the facility open for another year, afterwhich they will bid on other contracts to fill R1 and R2 (the two closing units).

 

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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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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.

"Precautionary" lockdown finally lifted at Reeves Detention Center

The lockdown on the Reeves County Detention Center has been lifted, reports News West 9.

As we reported earlier, the detention center was under "precautionary" lockdown. Visitors to the center were denied, and some reported that visitation had not been allowed for almost a month. Officials from the GEO Group, the private prison company that operates the facility, confirmed that there had been a lockdown but gave no reason as to why.

In an email sent to News West 9, GEO officials said the lockdown had been lifted. However, they were unclear on when the lockdown was lifted or how long it had been in effect.

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Five Private Prisons in Texas to Lose Contracts

Department of Justice Seal

Five private prisons in Texas will lose their contracts following the Department of Justice (DOJ) announcement to phase out the use of private prisons, according to The Texas Tribune.

 

The announcement came after the inspector general of the DOJ recently concluded in a report that federal prisons operated by private companies have greater issues with contraband and inmate discipline than those run by the Federal Bureau of Prisons. The office noted that "In recent years, disturbances in several federal contract prisons resulted in extensive property damage, bodily injury, and the death of a correctional officer."

Multiple incidents in Texas were among those driving the DOJ decision.

Two riots broke out in 2009 at the Reeves County Detention Center, operated by GEO Group. In 2011 prisoners attacked staff at the Big Spring Correctional Center, which is operated by GEO Group. Then in 2015, the Bureau of Prisons ended its contract with Management and Training Corporation for the Willacy County Correctional Center after prisoners set fires and damaged property beyond the company’s ability to maintain federal standards.

Shares for Corrections Corporation of America dropped 35% after the announcement, while shares for GEO Group dropped 39%

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ACLU Criminal Alien Requirement report: Reeves County Detention Center

The Reeves County Detention Center in Pecos, Texas is the first of the five "criminal alien requirement" (CAR) prisons in Texas covered in an ACLU report released this week that exposes abuses within such facilities. 

The report's findings indicate that men detained at Reeves are denied medical care. The most notable example is the death of Jesus Manuel Galindo, who was placed in solitary confinement after suffering a grand mal seizure in December 2008. Galindo suffered more seizures in solitary and died as a result. A wrongful death suit was filed against Reeves County, the Bureau of Prisons (BOP) and the GEO Group, which was settled in January 2013.

Prisoners at Reeves still report denial of medical services. One prisoner reported that diabetic prisoners must receive insulin treatment at mealtimes, thus forcing them to choose between eating and medical care. 

Following Galindo's death, prisoners rioted and set fire to a recreation center at the prison. Riots are common at Reeves and, a month after Galindo's death, another riot broke out, resulting in two guards being taken hostage and $20 million in damage from a fire set my the detained men. 

Reeves officials also overuse solitary confinement. Prisoners who participated in a petition to protest conditions at Reeves were placed in solitary confinement after being subjected to tear gas and being shot at with rubber bullets. Petition supporters and bystanders spent two days in the SHU (solitary housing unit). Samuel, a 38-year-old Jamaican immigrant, recounts the event: 

“Once everyone was lying down [after the tear-gassing], they cuffed us and took us out and put water on us. I started speaking up, not talking of resistance, but I was saying it’s not fair to punish all...”

The men spent two days in the SHU with four people in two-person capacity cells without pillows or blankets, or soap to wash the tear gas from their bodies.

In fact, experiences like Samuel's are common at Reeves. Other prisoners have reported the overuse of solitary and, in fact, contracts between the GEO Group and Reeves state that ten percent of housing at Reeves be allocated to the SHU. This percentage is almost twice as large as in other BOP facilities. Prisoners have reported that, when the SHU is full, two men sleep on bunks and a third sleeps on the floor. Prisoners often spend months in the SHU without explanation, and one man recounted that "anything" he did could result in time in the SHU.

Dormitories are also overcrowded at Reeves. Prisoners have stated that, despite Reeves' status as a minimum security facility, they must spend fifty minutes of every hour in their bunks. Movement around the unit to the library or to the recreation room is only allowed in the ten minutes at the beginning of every hour. Guards search prisoners after movement between rooms. If prisoners miss the annoucement that movement is allowed, they must wait another hour.  Overcrowding is apparently an incentive for profit. Maximum capacity in GEO's contract with the BOP is 90 percent, and there is a per-prisoner payment policy up to 115 percent capacity. As a result, recreation facilities have been converted into dormitories. Prisoners call these makeshift housing unites are called "chicken coops." The chicken coops contain 42 beds and reportedly smell like feces constantly because they are close to bathroom facilities.  

Overcrowding spills over to the recreation yards as well. There is a large yard and smaller yard, with the small yard intended to accommodate forty people. It is often used by 400 people at a time. In addition, the Port-A-Potties in the yard have not been replaced in four years, and many prisoners report that the contents have "splashed up" on them. 

This is not the first time Reeves has been on our radar. Reeves is mentioned in NPR's feature on for-profit incarceration and the ACLU's previous involvement in ligitgation regarding Reeves County's refusal to disclose documents regarding prisoner deaths, staffing and medical care.  

Dan Rather Reports on Reeves County Detention Center problems tonight

Dan Rather Reports will be covering GEO Group's controversial Reeves County Detention Center on tonight's broadcast.  Here's the show's description:

What's Happening Inside Reeves? - A privately run Federal prison in a small Texas town collects millions of dollars a month but few know--or can find out--what goes on behind the walls.

As regular TPB readers will remember Reeves as it was our #2 biggest private prison story of 2009.  The prison was the site of two major uprisings a year ago in protest of the lack of medical care amongst other conditions.  Nine immigrant prisoners have died in the facility in the last four years.  In the wake of the riots, the ACLU of Texas requested a Department of Justice review of the facility, and protests by family members, Grassroots Leadership (my organization), the ACLU of Texas, and the Southwest Workers Union continued into December.

The facility's problems have previously drawn major investigative pieces, including Forrest Wilder's Texas Observer piece ("The Pecos Insurrection," October 2, 2009) which chronicled last year's December 12th riot after the death of prisoner Jesus Manuel Galindo, and Tom Barry's Boston Review story ("A Death in Texas," November/December 2009) that puts Galindo's death and the subsequent disturbances in the context of how Pecos got into the prison-building business in the first place.  

You can watch the show tonight on HDNet or download it from iTunes.

2009 Top Private Prison Stories, #2 - Protests of conditions at GEO Group's Reeves County Detention Center

Another year has passed here at Texas Prison Bid'ness, and what an exciting year it has been. As we have done in the past, the bloggers here at TPB would like to recap our favorite or perhaps the most memorable stories/topics over the past year.  Over the next few days, we'll be posting 2009's top five stories related to private prisons.

This is the second biggest story of 2009. 

#2 Protests and riots at the GEO Group's Reeves County Detention Center

2009 started out with second riot at GEO's Reeves County Detention Center in Pecos, Texas by prisoners angered at multiple deaths and a lack of medical care at the facility.  By year's end, nine immigrant prisoners had died in the facility in the last four years. The riots could cost the county, which owns the facility over $1 million in repair costs.  In the wake of the riots, the ACLU of Texas requested a Department of Justice review of the facility, and attorney Juan Angel Guerra was denied access to clients in Pecos.

Several major investigative pieces covered the issue, including Forrest Wilder's Texas Observer piece ("The Pecos Insurrection," October 2) which chronicled last year's December 12th riot after the death of prisoner Jesus Manuel Galindo, and Tom Barry's Boston Review story ("A Death in Texas," November/December 2009) puts Galindo's death and the subsequent disturbances in the context of how Pecos got into the prison-building business in the first place.  Barry later spoke to Terry Gross about Reeves and private detention on NPR's Fresh Air.

Conditions at the Reeves County Detention Center continued to make headlines into December, thanks to protests organized by the Southwest Workers Union, the ACLU of Texas, Grassroots Leadership, and the National Network for Immigrant and Refugee Rights.

Protesters gathered at the GEO Group's regional headquarters in New Braunfels on December 10th with coffins to represent the nine prisoner deaths at the facility in the last four years.  Texas Prison Bid'ness blogger and Grassroots Leadership organizer Bob Libal joined Maria Reynaga, the sister of a prisoner at RCDC, and ACLU of Texas director Terri Burke to deliver a letter to GEO executives calling on the company to to submit to a Department of Justice investigation into immigrant prisoner deaths and the conditions of confinement at RCDC, implement a transparent grievance system, and allow civil rights groups to monitor conditions at the facility.   

Family members and protesters also gathered in Pecos on December 12th, the anniversary of the death of the Jesus Manuel Galindo.  Galindo's death sparked the first of the two major riots at the prison in protest to a lack of medical care and abusive conditions. At the same time, the ACLU of Texas met with prisoners at RCDC, who described atrocious conditions at the facility, according to an op-ed by the ACLU's Tracey Hayes ("ACLU Texas advocate reveals inside look at inhumane conditions and profiteering at GEO managed detention center," Restore Fairness),

Prison officials keep medical costs down by making it almost impossible for inmates to get adequate medical care. They keep food costs down by serving low quality food in insufficient amounts.  They keep administrative costs down by restricting access to grievance processes with English-only requirements and by punishing English speakers who assist mono-lingual Spanish speakers in filling out the forms.  Bi-lingual speakers who try to help others must eventually choose between being thrown into solitary confinement or ending their translation assistance.

Furthermore, GEO’s cost-cutting has led to a long and steady rise in the company’s profits while atrocities continue unabated.  For example, detainees spoke of medical staff prescribing “two Tylenol” to detainees who complain of stomach ulcers, blood in the urine or stool, and metastasizing lumps spreading over aging bodies.  And inmates with previously diagnosed chronic and serious conditions were also prescribed “two Tylenol.” When they press their cases to obtain the medicines they need, detainees are often thrown into solitary where they are unable to ask for further medical attention or submit grievances.

It certainly doesn't sound like things have improved much at RCDC.  The facility's contract with the Bureau of Prisons is up in March, 2010, so we're likely to see more stories about RCDC in the new year. 

NPR's "Fresh Air" interviews Tom Barry on the growing private immigrant prison system

I received a flurry of text messages yesterday afternoon telling me to tune in to National Public Radio's Fresh Air ("Questions On Public-Private Prisons For Immigrants," December 10) interview with Tom Barry yesterday on the growing immigrant incarceration system.  Barry's most recent article in the Boston Review and  covered ongoing problems at GEO's Reeves County Detention Center in Pecos, the subject of human rights protests this week. The interview is well worth a listen, and touches on many of the issues we cover here at Texas Prison Bid'ness. 

 

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