Community Residents Voice Opposition to a New Private Prison in McAllen, TX at Public Forum

September 11, 2013


McAllen, TX – A public forum at McAllen City Hall on Wednesday evening will give community members an opportunity to voice opposition to the construction of a new 1,000-bed private prison.  The new lock-up would be the result of a more than thirty-fold increase in McAllen’s current detention agreement with the United States Marshals Service (USMS).

Last month 50 national, state, and local organizations delivered a letter to McAllen officials expressing opposition to the new facility.  The letter with full list of signatories can be viewed here:

McAllen residents and community leaders will share concerns about the impact of the potential private prison deal ranging from undermining the city’s progressive image to stunting economic growth.  Ann Williams Cass, a resident of McAllen for over 33 years, feels the building of a private prison is inconsistent with the vision that the City of McAllen has.

"The private prison companies have a horrific track record and will drag down the city's reputation. It will affect economic development in the area that it is placed,” said Cass.  “I don't want McAllen to be known for having a private prison. That's not what we are about. If other entities want to do it, so be it. Not here."

Civil liberties advocates are also concerned about the sordid track record of the private prison company, GEO Group, that has shown interest in the deal. “As the disturbing experiences of other jurisdictions have shown, handing control of prisons over to for-profit companies is a recipe for abuse, neglect, and misconduct,” said Astrid Dominguez, Advocacy Coordinator for the Lower Rio Grande Valley for the ACLU of Texas.

Leaders from the faith community also oppose the private prison project.  Several faith denominations, including the Presbyterian Church, U.S. Catholic Bishops, and the United Methodist Church, stand united against the for-profit prison industry, and have issued resolutions and official statements proclaiming moral opposition to profiteering from imprisonment.

Immigrant rights advocates voiced concern that the vast majority of people incarcerated in the McAllen prison for the USMS would likely be immigrants charged only with unauthorized border-crossing, and urged city officials not to contribute to the growing trend of criminalizing migrants under the federal “Operation Streamline” program.

“Building a private prison for immigrants is not in the best interest of the McAllen or the many immigrant or mixed-status families that live in the Rio Grande Valley,” said Martha Sanchez, a McAllen resident and Coordinator of Community Organizers with La Union del Pueblo Entero (LUPE).  “We need to be investing in schools and other projects that better our community, not prisons that make profit for corporations in others states.”

Community members opposing the construction of a new private prison in McAllen, TX will be delivering a petition to city officials present at the public forum Wednesday night.  View the petition here:




Ann Williams Cass, (956) 533-6637

John Michael Torres, La Union del Pueblo Entero, (956) 534-0267

Astrid Dominguez, ACLU of Texas, (956) 571-7004

Joe Martin, Texas Civil Rights Project, (956) 787-8171