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Willacy County

Willacy County Sells Prison to Management & Training Corporation in “Prisonville”

The Valley Morning Star reported the details of Willacy County’s sale of the former Willacy County Correctional Center to Management & Training Corporation (MTC) in Raymondville. According to details released on October 9, the sale for $2.025 million released the county of its $68 million debt to the prison’s bond holders. The 53-acre facility was originally developed by MTC as a detention center in 2006. The county bought the prison in 2011 to turn it to a minimum-security prison. The facility closed in 2015 following a riot and fire.

Management & Training Corporation is soliciting a new contract for the facility. Known previously as Tent City for its windowless pods, “MTC removed 10 Kevlar-covered domes damaged in the February 2015 riot that led to the 3,000-bed prison’s closure.”

Raymondville has been known as “Prisonville” for its three prison and detention facilities, now all privately owned. The town suffered tremendous financial impacts following the closure of the prison. “The closure of the prison, which paid the county for every inmate it held, led to 400 employee layoffs, slashing a third of the county’s $8.1 million general fund budget and plunging the area into financial crisis,” the Valley Morning Star reported.

Check out our previous coverage of MTC's scandals in Raymondville:

Private prison guard caught sleeping on the job

A private prison guard was photographed sleeping while guarding an inmate in a Texas hospital, reports KRGV 5 news.

 

The unnamed guard worked at the Willacy County State Jail, which is operated by the private prison company CoreCivic (formerly known as Corrections Corporation of America). The guard was watching over a prisoner on August 1 at the Valley Baptist Medical Center in Harlingen, Texas. CoreCivic launched an investigation into the incident following the picture, and had this to say:

 

"We can confirm that the photograph is of a CoreCivic/Willacy County State Jail correctional officer and this is certainly a behavior we do not condone. Due to the serious nature of his behavior and numerous policy violations, the employee has been terminated from his position with the company effective immediately.”

 

Unfortunately, this is not the first issue around the Willacy County Jail. In 2015, an uprising by prisoners due to inadequate medical care caused fires that led to the closing of the facility. Then, in November of 2016, two former guards were charged with bribery. Both guards were found guilty and were sentenced to jail time.

 

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Private prison working on permits to demolish existing parts as they look to reopen notorious facility

Willacy County Regional Detention Facility
A private prison company is working on getting permits to continue their push to reopen the Willacy County Detention Center, reports KRGV 5.

On Monday, Management and Training Corporation (MTC) went with Raymondville officials to inspect the facility as they work to reopen the Willacy County Detention Center. Following the inspection, MTC officials said they plan to demolish ten prison tents that were damaged in a 2015 prisoner uprising. Eleazar Garcia, Raymondville's city manager, said MTC required permits to tear down the structures. Garcia said it would take about a day to process the permits.

Raymondville officials hope that the reopening of the facility will lead to a rebuilding of their economy. The facility could bring between 150 and 200 jobs to Raymondville.

Management and Training Corporation, a Utah-based private prison company, has been in the process of reopening their facility located in Raymondville, Texas. It had to be closed in 2015 after a prisoner uprising caused by the horrible conditions at the facility, which led to several prison tents being partially destroyed. Some parts of the facility were torn down soon after the uprising in hopes of securing a new contract, which did not materialize. While insurance covered the cost for MTC to repair the facility, it was not enough for Willacy County and led to a budget crisis that is still affecting the local economy. Perhaps it is time for cities and counties to new look for new revenue streams outside of private prisons, ones that are beneficial and not as risky.

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Willacy County prison to be inspected next week

The owners of the Willacy County Detention Center are taking a step forward in reopening the facility after more than two years with an upcoming inspection, reports KRGV 5.

The Willacy County Detention Center is known by critics as "Ritmo" — short for Raymondville's Guantánamo prison. It is owned by Management and Training Corporation (MTC), a Utah-based private prison company. Though it has been closed for more than two years, Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) had expressed interest in reopening the facility following presidential orders increasing border security and immigration enforcement. Officials from MTC and the city of Raymondville, where the facility is located, will inspect the facility Monday at 10 a.m.

Raymondville Mayor Gilbert Gonzales said MTC officials were eager to reopen the facility. “They’re going to start working on the facility itself right now to start repairing the damage, and also to make sure they’re up to specs. We’ll have our code enforcement officer here,” he said.

The reason for the inspection and subsequent repairs is due to a prisoner uprising in 2015. The uprising began when prisoners did not eat breakfast to protest the inadequate medical care they were receiving at the facility. The fires that occurred during the incident destroyed a large portion of the facility, which led MTC to tear down what was left in hopes of gaining a new contract. A new contract for the facility has not been signed yet, due to the prisoner uprising and the facility having a history of guards being charged with bribery, drug smuggling, and deaths of prisoners.

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Former Willacy County prison guard sentenced to 18 months in prison

A former Willacy County prison guard has been sentenced to 18 months in federal prison for bribery, reports CBS 4 News.

Harry Cordero, a former guard at the Willacy County Regional Detention Center, was charged last November with two counts of bribery and one count of providing contraband in prison. Cordero accepted bribes to allow alcohol and a cell phone into the prison in December of 2015. Following the conviction, Cordero was sentenced to 18 months in federal prison, followed by three years of supervised release.

Cordero and another inmate, Stephen Salinas, were both guards at the Willacy County Detention Center, which is operated by the Utah-based private prison company Management and Training Corporation. The men were employed at the facility before it was closed in 2015, when it was destroyed in a prisoner uprising. Prisoners had received poor medical attention and neglect, which led to the uprising.

The Willacy County facility lost its contract with Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) in  2011 following multiple physical and sexual assaults by the guards on the prisoners. The facility then had a contract with the U.S. Marshals service until its destruction. Though the facility has been closed for years, in February Willacy County officials stated ICE was interested in reopening the facility following comments from President Trump around increased border security and immigration enforcement.

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Willacy prison could return to original purpose under ICE

Willacy County Regional Detention Facility
Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) has expressed interest in re-opening the Willacy County Correctional Center, reported the Brownsville Herald.

County officials say that comments from President Trump surrounding increased border security have led to increase interest in immigrant detention centers, as ICE looks for more bed space to detain undocumented immigrants. County Judge Aurelio Guerra said "I’m optimistic we should be able to arrange something out with an operator and a branch of government."

He also said "There seems to be a lot more interest here with this presidential administration. The demand is more toward ICE. Where we are geographically, with our proximity to the border, plays a big role."

However, county officials have yet to make statements on any potential economic impact or the number of jobs created.

The facility was operated by a private prison company, Management and Training Corporation (MTC), for a number of years before losing their contract with the Federal Bureau of Prisons. The contract was canceled following an uprising from the immigrants detained at the facility, who cited poor medical care as one of the reasons that led to them taking over parts of the prison and setting fire.

However, this facility has had numerous problems before the contract was canceled, including prisoners escaping, guards being accused of immigrant smuggling, sexual assault, and others being charged with bribery. Willacy County also went millions of dollars into debt following an expansion of the private prison in 2007, with the eventual closing leading to 400 employees laid off.

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Willacy County claims negligence caused 2015 riot

Willacy County Regional Detention Facility
In the lawsuit that Willacy County is bringing against Management and Training Corp., they state that the 2015 riot at the Willacy County Correctional Center was caused by "deplorable conditions" at the prison, CBS 4 News reports

As we reported earlier, Willacy County filed a lawsuit against Management and Training Corp. (MTC), a private prison company based out of Utah. The lawsuit states that the for-profit prison company failed to properly oversee, manage, and repair the facility, leading to poor conditions at the facility. Flooding toilets, rodents, and a lack of access to basic medical care in the facility sparked a riot that led to the destruction of the correctional center and cost the county millions of dollars.

According to the San Antonio Current, inmates had to deal with the issues, with tensions running higher as the problems persisted. Some new inmates were forced into solitary confinement due to overcrowding at the prison, with the lawsuit stating that "MTC failed to address the issue of prison overcrowding, presumably because MTC was paid an additional per diem for inmates beyond the 90 percent capacity threshold."

The prison was then shut down by the federal Bureau of Prisons, and around 400 employees lost their jobs.

Willacy County wants MTC to pay for damages, punitive damages, and legal fees.

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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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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.”

MTC to lay off 242 employees in the wake of uprising in Willacy County

Willacy County

In the wake of the uprising at the criminal alien requirement (CAR) prison in Willacy County that left the facility uninhabitable, Management and Training Corporation will reportedly lay off around 242 administrators and guards. Initial reports indicated that around 50 staff would remain at the facility, but the number is now being reported as a meager 25, with those positions under review. The 2,834 inmates have been transferred to other prisons in the CAR system, and the future of the facility is uncertain.

 

Management and Training Corporation purports to have some of the best corrections facilities in the country, and claims that their “facilities are safe and secure for neighboring communities, staff members, offenders, and detainees.” The uprising in late February was a reaction to well documented sanitation issues, physical and sexual abuse, and lack of medical care.

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