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Reeves County Press Release - Grassroots Leadership & Texas Jail Project

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March 26, 2009
For Immediate Release

Contact: Bob Libal, Grassroots Leadership, (512) 971-0487
Diana Claitor, Texas Jail Project, (512) 983-3446
Luissana Santibañez, Grassroots Leadership, (512) 968-8738    

Ongoing Neglect, Abuse at GEO Group’s Reeves County Detention Center Reflect Problems in Private Prison Industry

~ Advocacy Organizations Issue Recommendations ~

Austin, TX – Grassroots Leadership, the Texas Jail Project, and family members of prisoners today expressed concern at the ongoing problems at GEO Group’s Reeves County Detention Center.  In the past six months, the facility has been rocked by deaths, reports of poor medical care, and at least two high-profile riots that severely damaged the facility.  

Family members will gather outside the Reeves County Courthouse on Saturday, March 28th, at 10:00am to protest lack of information and visitation access to the facility.  Contact Luissana Santibañez at for more details.

"Nobody wants to listen to them, so we're here supporting them. We're not going to stay quiet." Maria Reynaga, sister of an inmate said. "They are not animals."

The GEO Group (NYSE:GEO), a private prison company based in Boca Raton, Florida, operates the prison for Reeves County.  The Federal Bureau of Prisons contracts with the company to house immigrant prisoners at the facility.  In 2003, authority to inspect the facility was taken away from the Texas Commission on Jail Standards by House Bill 3517, which restricted the agency’s purview over county-owned facilities that house only federal prisoners.  Earlier this month, the GEO Group announced the death of another inmate, possibly due to suicide.

“Problems with conditions and medical care like those at GEO’s Reeves County detention center illustrate the need to reverse 3517 and let the jail commission inspect these facilities,” said Diana Claitor, director of the Texas Jail Project, a watchdog and advocacy group. Senator Juan “Chuy” Hinojosa has filed Senate Bill 1690 which would allow the Commission on Jail Standards to inspect such facilities.

At least three GEO Group prisons have closed in Texas in the past two years after scandals involving poor conditions or neglect.  The company’s Coke County juvenile detention center was shuttered after the Texas Youth Commission found feces smeared on the wall and fire exits shuttered.  The Idaho Department of Corrections withdrew its prisoners from both the Dickens County and Bill Clayton detention centers after suicides.  The Idaho DOC’s health director called Dickens the worst prison facility he’d ever seen.

“The GEO Group’s prisons in Texas have been rocked by scandal after scandal,” said Bob Libal of Grassroots Leadership, a national organization that opposes the use of for-profit prisons, jails, and detention centers.  “The company’s record here is simply appalling, and warrants a company-wide investigation.”

Recommendations for the Reeves County Detention Center include:

1)    An investigation into conditions at the facility by the U.S. Department of Justice;
2)    Allowing the Texas Commission on Jail Standards to inspect the facility;
3)    Transparency and accountability during the investigation process;
4)    Visitation access for attorneys, family members of prisoners, and human rights organizations