Nearly three thousand immigrant prisoners are being transferred to undisclosed federal facilities after a two-day demonstration against indecent living conditions and medical care left the Willacy County Regional Detention Facility in need of repairs.
Willacy is a private prison operated by the Management and Training Corporation (MTC), where thousands of inmates are housed in khaki-colored Kevlar domes. Located less than an hour north of the Mexico border in the town of Raymondville, Texas, the tent-city prison has been given the nickname Ritmo for its oppressive conditions and resemblance to Guantanamo Bay. It is one of thirteen private Criminal Alien Requirement facilities in the country receiving millions in taxpayer dollars to incarcerate immigrant offenders on behalf of the federal Bureau of Prisons (BOP).
The demonstration began on Friday morning when prisoners refused to leave their housing units for breakfast, telling guards they would not work or do their chores. “After speaking with the inmates, we learned some were unhappy with the medical services and were demonstrating to make their concerns known. The warden and other facility leaders met with the offenders to attempt to resolve their concerns and provide a resolution,” an MTC spokesperson later told reporters.
At 12:15pm, prison officials ordered the facility be put on lock-down. At 1:40pm, inmates were breaking out of their housing units and into the recreation yard. Small fires were set inside 3 of those units soon after. Thousands of prisoners were in the yard in the span of 20 minutes.
By this point, according to the Valley Morning Star, around 40 law enforcement vehicles had parked on the other side of the fence. Guards were firing tear gas into the yard. A helicopter hovered overhead carrying an officer brandishing an assault rifle.
Concerned families of Willacy prisoners gathered outside seeking more information. They watched as medical and law enforcement vehicles rushed past them towards the facility. Continue reading
Twenty-eight prisoners from Vermont are being held out-of-state at the for-profit Florence Correctional Center in Arizona. At around noon on August 22nd, 13 of those 28 inmates began protesting.
The prisoners ‘coordinated resistance’ and refused to return to their cells because they were frustrated by their increased isolation and the restrictions imposed on them by Corrections Corp. of America. While details of what transpired are unclear, prisoners allegedly “[smashed] televisions, microwaves and other equipment.”
CCA’s guards responded with force and a “chemical agent.” All 13 inmates were tossed into solitary confinement as punishment, where they’ve been for the past month. There is no indication as to when CCA will let them out. Continue reading
It turns out that transferring prisoners to private institutions in other states doesn’t just enrich the industry and interfere with rehabilitation.
Vermont’s Burlington Free Press reports that private transfers — a policy meant to save the state money and reduce prison overcrowding — are costing taxpayers tens of thousands of dollars a year so corrections staff can attempt to do their jobs from 3,000 miles away. Continue reading
Vermonters for Criminal Justice Reform’s Suzi Wizowaty joined VT Dept. of Corrections Commissioner Andy Pallito for an excellent talk on Vermont Public Radio about the use of out-of-state prison transfers to reduce prison overcrowding, and the impact it has on inmates, their communities and mass incarceration.
Vermont currently sends over 500 prisoners to private facilities run by Corrections Corp. of America as far away as Kentucky (approx. 765 miles away) and Arizona (approx. 2,162 miles away). But the evidence suggests that these transfers can be devastating to prisoners, who experience further isolation and find it more difficult to maintain meaningful contact with their communities.
Some might rightfully ask that, if advocates oppose a state’s plans to send prisoners elsewhere to reduce overcrowding, does that mean we need to build more prisons at home? Where will all those prisoners be ‘kept?’ Wizowaty avoids this trap and makes clear she does not advocate new facilities. Indeed, the solution to overcrowding is not to send prisoners out of state or build more prisons, but to focus on means of actually reducing the number of people the state imprisons, returning them society. But under this policy of exile, prisoners, families and communities lose, and the prison industrial complex wins.