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Willacy County Correctional Center

Private prison guard sentenced to jail time for accepting bribes

A former guard at a privately operated prison in Texas was sentenced today for accepting bribes according to a press release from the Department of Justice.

 

Stephen Salinas was one of two former guards from the Willacy County Detention Center who were accused of accepting bribes last year. Salinas pleaded guilty in January of this year for accepting bribes in return for bringing alcohol and cell phones to prisoners.

 

Salinas was employed by Management and Training Corporation, a Utah-based private prison company that ran the Willacy County Detention Center. Salinas will serve 18 months in prison followed by a three-year supervised release.

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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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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 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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2 former Willacy County prison guards charged with bribery

Willacy County Regional Detention Facility

Two former prison guards from the Willacy County Regional Detention Facility were arrested Friday, as reported by Valley Central.

Stephan Salinas and Harry Cordero were both employed at the Willacy County Detention Facility, which is run by the private prison company Management & Training Corp. (MTC) in Raymondville, Texas. This facility was destroyed in a prisoner uprising in 2015 due to poor medical conditions and neglect. Before that, the facility lost its Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) contract in 2011 due to physical and sexual assault by the guards on prisoners.

Cordero and Salinas were both fired by MTC in January following internal investigations of the two guards. Cordero was charged with two counts of bribery and one count of providing contraband in prison. He was found to have accepted bribes to allow alcohol and a cell phone into the prison in December of 2015.

The details about Salinas were not made immediately available, but both men remain in federal custody. The men were employed at the facility before it was closed following the 2015 uprising by immigrants detained at the facility.

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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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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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