By Anita Stewart
Last weekend, in a move that should not have surprised anyone, over 2000 prisoners from the “for profit” Willacy County Correctional Facility in Raymondville, Texas took part in an uprising after threatening to carry out these same actions for months. This facility is one of 13 CAR (criminal alien requirement) prisons owned by a company based out of Utah.
What Are For Profit Prisons Are Supposed To Do? Make Money …
The Willacy facility was opened in 2006 for those people seized by Immigration and Customs and awaiting deportation. After bad conditions including sexual violence and contaminated food, ICE relocated the prisoners in 2011.
Then a new contract was signed with the Federal Bureau of Prisons because no one was making money from this facility. This contract permitted the incarceration of non-citizens that had been convicted of criminal offenses. The facility began to house illegal immigrants that had committed these offenses all the way down to those with minor offenses, such as crossing the border illegally.
And none of the conditions within the prison had improved with the signing and implementation of this new contract. In fact, the conditions were so bad, squalid and cramped that the facility was nick-named “Ritmo” (after Raymondville, TX) a play on Guantanamo’s “Gitmo.”
 Shades Of Things To Come
An exposé on Frontline about this particular facility and then the government shut it down as an immigration detention facility. Later when it was re-opened under contract, only then was it used as a prison for immigrants that were criminally prosecuted after coming back to the country. So there was a deliberate attempt to cover up what was being done at Willacy and to create a steady revenue stream.
The ACLU released a report on Willacy and four other CAR prisons in Texas. Carl Takei, an ACLU attorney and co-author of the report called last week’s uprising “a predictable consequence” of what he found at Willacy in 2013. He said, “…the overwhelming impression that I came away with was a near-universal sense of despair.“
Conditions in the prison became worse and attempts to call attention to the problems through non-violent intervention and smaller rebellions had not solved anything. We can only surmise that this latest uprising was a last ditch effort to call attention to the conditions and inhumane treatment there.
Bad Conditions Or Systemic Torture?
Some of the horrific conditions within this facility included:
- Sexual abuse (guard on inmate)
- Unsanitary conditions (overflowing sewage into living quarters)
- Infestations (pests actually biting the prisoners)
- Lack of adequate health care (one prisoner with Hepatitis C received no treatment for over 2 years)
- Incorrect use of solitary confinement (used when an inmate would request something)
Substandard health care was the main issue that sparked last weekend’s uprising. The prison is now considered uninhabitable. Prisoners are slowly being moved to other facilities and it is unknown how long the Willacy facility will remain closed.
And The Bottom Line Is…
So how much money does the county of Willacy expect to lose? The county expected to make 2.8 million dollars. Now they expect to lose 2 million of that. The county officials and sheriff’s department keep that money as a fund for whatever they happen to need but those needs have not been identified. Road maintenance was mentioned but which roads were to be repaired was not clarified. While prisoners were housed there Willacy County got $2.50 per day for each inmate from the federal government. Management and Training’s contract with the federal government is for a total of 10 years and worth approximately half a billion dollars.
It is always easy to follow the money to see who benefits from the systemic torture and inhumane treatment of people who may or may not be criminals and have no way to defend themselves and have no resources to buy justice.
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