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South Texas officials working to reopen scandal-ridden Willacy County prison

Tent City
Tent City
Willacy officials are working to reopen the troubled Willacy County Correctional Center by winning a new federal, state, or local contract, according to a report by KRGV.

The prison, known as Tent City because of its construction out of Kevlar tents, was destroyed last year after an uprising by immigrant prisoners in protest of conditions at the privately operated facility 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. The economic ripple effect in the area didn't end there, with job losses in the private and government sectors following the prison closure. 

The facility had been operating under "Criminal Alien Requirement" to incarcerate immigrants for the Bureau of Prisons.  

In June of last year, The Nation published a detailed exposé on the uprising describes a peaceful protest that was caused by widespread medical neglect.  The peaceful protest was followed by the what the Nation called an "avoidable escalation" caused by MTC's guards.   

This was not the first time that MTC had run afoul of a federal agency after allegations of abuse at the facility.  In 2011, the facility lost its Immigration and Customs Enfrocement (ICE) contract following an expose by PBS' Frontline detailing sexual and physical abuse at the prison.

Given this history, it would seem almost unbelievable that this facility would win any new contract, let alone a federal one.  We'll keep you posted on developments.   

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Willacy warden is the only MTC employee left after prison uprising

Willacy County
Willacy County
KRGV.com reports that the warden is the last Management and Training Corporation (MTC) employee left at the Willacy County correctional facility.

MTC laid off nine staff members on April 17 after an uprising there two months ago left the facility uninhabitable and the Bureau of Prisons canceled MTC's contract for the federal prison for immigrants.

Officials told KRGV.com that the cleanup is complete, and there will be an effort to try and reopen the facility. A total of 363 employees at the prison were laid off. All 2,800 prisoners were moved to other federal facilities.

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.

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